Album Review

Kathy Mattea - Roses

Kathy Mattea - Roses

With 7 million records sold, two Grammys (1990 and '93), back-to-back CMA Top Female Vocalist trophies (1989 and '90) and more than a dozen Top 10 country hits under her belt, Kathy Mattea can do pretty much what she wants. Like others of her age (early 40s) and ilk, she realizes mainstream contemporary country and/or crossover success is unlikely, so she's free to follow her muse. For Roses, her debut on the largely new age label Narada, Mattea keeps with her recent adult contemporary trend of imbuing her folk-country sound with an energizing dose of Celtic influences -- whistles, fiddles, harmonium, concertina. She also keeps twenty songwriters employed on the dozen cuts, including Kim Richey, Gary Nicholson, Bob Halligan Jr. and Bill Cooley. The production is sterling, with dense, rushing layers of sound ringing through the sonic spectrum. "That's All The Lumber You Sent", "They Are The Roses" and "Guns Of Love" is a strong trio to kick off a disc -- the ballads feature propulsive rhythms, precise playing and strong vocals (the opera-trained Mattea has never sounded better) -- but then Mattea falls victim to her saccharine impulses and abandons the Celts. The violin-laden "Ashes In The Wind", the syrupy "I'm Alright" and "Till I Turn To You", for example, are pretty enough and may appeal to her target demographic (other 43-year-old women, perhaps?), but others will find their teeth grinding amid the overwhelming sweetness.