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Maurice Mattei and The Tempers play on 'Song Of The Mountains' May 21-22

Maurie Mattei (center) performing on the "Song of the Mountains" stage with bass player Bryan Berwanger and drummer Debbie Immesoete.
Courtesy "Song Of The Mountains"
Maurie Mattei (center) performing on the "Song of the Mountains" stage with bass player Bryan Berwanger and drummer Debbie Immesoete.

Cincinnati rock band make national TV debut on popular public TV bluegrass and Americana music series.

After years of rocking 'round Greater Cincinnati, Maurice Mattei makes his national TV debut — on a bluegrass and old-time music show called Song Of The Mountains.

How did that happen?

"I was familiar with the show, so I was surprised when they picked us. We have some bluegrass songs — bluegrass ballads — but we don't fit a particular genre. We're kind of all over the place," says Mattei, 67, a Westwood guitarist, songwriter, visual artist and illustrator.

"They wanted to branch out a bit and get more Americana music. They picked us because we fit the bill of what they wanted," he says. Fred Anderson, a Cincinnati-based public relations man, had suggested the band to Tim White, host and executive producer of the public TV series, Mattei says.

Maurice Mattei and The Tempers — his trio with Bryan Berwanger on upright bass and Debbie Immesoete on drums — will appear on Song Of The Mountains at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 21 on WPTO-TV (Channel 14) and midnight early Sunday May 22 on WCET-TV (Channel 48).

Kentucky Educational Television will broadcast statewide the episode 8 p.m. July 19 on KET2.

Since 2005, the music series has been taped in the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Va., in the southwestern corner of the state. Song Of The Mountains airs on more than 190 PBS stations, "with a potential reach of 147 million viewers each year," according to the show's website.

The Tempers play a little bit of everything — rock, rockabilly, R&B and some country.

"It depends on the songs I come up with, and in what style. So we end up with a little bit of this and that," he says.

On his mauricematteimusic website, he explains:

"Musically, everything I do revolves around songwriting. I began writing songs in the mid '70s, took a long break and started into it again in the late '80s. It was then that I found my own approach. I was greatly influenced by storytellers — Chuck Berry, Hank Williams, Lou Reed, old folk and country tunes ... Coming up with a good tune is still my favorite part of playing music. For me, there's nothing like it. Anything that comes after that is icing on the cake. When I started playing with other people — which eventually became the Tempers — my writing became a little more riff-oriented but not much changed lyrically."

Mattei has recorded more than two dozen CDs. The Tempers came together "by chance sometime around 2007" when he decided to record an album with a full band.

For Song Of The Mountains the trio played 90% original songs.

"It was a pretty rock 'n' roll show, except for a last song,'50 Miles of Elbow Room,' a soulful gospel song. It's a very up-tempo closer," he says.

Born in Italy, Mattei's parents came to Cleveland in 1961, when he was 5. The family moved to Cincinnati a year later. He graduated from Moeller High School in 1974, and moved to Westwood about 20 years ago.

The Tempers only play about once a month.

"I don't want to do much more than that," he says.

They performed on Fountain Square last Saturday. Their only scheduled summer gigs are Saturday June 4 at Poppy's Bar, 6611 Glenway Ave., Green Township; Saturday July 2 at Arnold's Bar & Grill, 210 E. 8th St., Downtown; and Saturday, Sept. 10 at the Wunderbar!, 1132 Lee St., Covington, KY.

Song of the Mountains airs 7 p.m. Saturday, May 21, on WPTO-TV (Channels 14.1 and 14.5), and at midnight Sunday (late Saturday) May 22 on WCET-TV (Channel 48). The episode will air 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 18 on WCVN-TV (Channel 54.2) and throughout Kentucky on KET2.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.