Walking Away A Winner
Mercury Records, 1993
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/06/1998
As much as I have admitted I am not a big country music fan, I can't help liking Kathy Mattea.
Her style of music is an AOR crossover without sounding like she's trying to keep her feet planted in both styles of music, something I'd be hard-pressed to say about many artists. The surprising thing is that she has yet to achieve success that other artists like LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood have achieved - and as good as they are, something seems terribly wrong.
Take Mattea's 1994 release Walking Away A Winner. I first bought this disc at a garage sale that had nothing but music - hey, $5 for a disc that was a new release at the time was enough to make me willing to give it a try. This album has it all - and really should have been the album that broke Mattea into superstardom. Why it didn't, I'll never know.
The title track is a prime example of the mastery Mattea has over her music (notwithstanding the fact that Mattea herself wrote none of these songs). The overall groove of the song makes it feel like a light rock song, while there are just enough touches that give it a country twang. Mattea's voice, as it is on all ten selections, is flawless and enchanting.
This one song isn't enough to make you wonder why Mattea isn't a superstar? Then check out "Nobody's Gonna Rain On Our Parade," another song that screams "light rock". The harmonizing vocals and catchy chorus are the "giveaways" to my ears - and frankly, this song could have been a smash hit had someone been willing to give it a chance.
But Walking Away A Winner also has enough touches to make it a country album - namely the powerful storytelling locked within. "The Cape" tells of the importance to hold onto our dreams - and even a touch of our childhood innocence - despite what the pundits say. "Who's Gonna Know" is a song that has occasionally moved me to tears, a song which stresses the importance of not only hanging onto the memories of loved ones, but passing those memories along to future generations in order to keep these people alive in our hearts. Ka-pow. "The Streets Of Your Town" and "Clown In Your Rodeo" probably are the most country-oriented numbers.
And let's throw in a touch of feminism while we're at it - "Maybe She's Human" is a subtle hint to men that we damn well better start appreciating everything the women in our lives do that we don't see or take the time to acknowledge. (This lecture coming from someone who spends too much time in front of the computer than with his own wife, by the way... I'm not above admitting fault.)
Even a country-hater will probably love Walking Away A Winner - there's enough of an adult-contemporary flavor to make you forget where Mattea's roots truly lie. But Mattea's talent - as well as that of her backing band - cast away any prejudice you might have against country music, and make this a truly pleasurable listening experience - albeit a short one, clocking in at well under 40 minutes.