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Untasted Honey

Kathy Mattea

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Album Review

In many ways, Kathy Mattea's Untasted Honey is about as close as she's ever come to recording a bluegrass album. Of course, it's not bluegrass; it's more like Nash Vegas grass. The appearance of players and singers like Tim O'Brien, David Schnaufer, Ray Flynn, Ray Flacke, and a host of others suggests Mattea is sticking close to the roots formula. Her reliance on songs by O'Brien, Fred Koller, Don Henry, and Pat Alger also directs the mix in a certain direction. With producer Allen Reynolds and backing vocals by O'Brien, Beth Nielsen Chapman, and John Thompson, this set is consistently fine. All of the songs seem to segue into one another, creating a tapestry, or a series of snapshots placed together in an album. "Untold Stories," a flashy stomp & roller with the influence of Bill Monroe haunting the background, is a hell of an opener — especially with the mandolin and guitar solos. The Nelson Brothers' "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" is a song Rodney Crowell wishes he would have written, and as storyteller here, Mattea is so deep inside the story it's difficult to tell if she's recording a story or giving the listener a recounting of something that happened to her. "Late in the Day" is another O'Brien winner, full of rambling pedal steel and entwined acoustic guitars. Other standouts include the title track, with a virtual choir of backing vocalists and the punch of Bob Ray's voice. This is the most '80s neo-trad country track on the set, and it works. The funky country blues of Pat Alger and Mark D. Sanders' "Like a Hurricane" has that high lonesome ring to it, and Mattea's voice — which is so large you can hear it echo within itself — was created to sing a tune like this. In all, this is solid for such a young effort; the selection of tunes, particularly near the end of the record, falls apart, but there's plenty here to engage even the most casual of listeners.

Customer Reviews

A Great Album by an Underappreciated Artist

Kathy Mattea was one of the premier country artists from the mid-80's to the mid-90's, and this was one of her best albums. Her relaxed, unstrained vocal style, relatively understated arrangements and the stories embedded in her songs were a powerful combination. In fact, her Hall of Fame talent is probably so underappreciated because of how easy she's always made it seem. This LP, which does not have a bad song on it, was so good that half of its tracks made the charts. Those included "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses", "Life as We Knew It", "Goin' Gone", "Untold Stories" and "The Battle Hymn of Love" (an excellent duet with Tim O'Brien). But the remaining five songs are also very good, especially "As Long as I Have a Heart".

Biography

Born: June 21, 1959 in Cross Lane, WV

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Kathy Mattea was one of the most respected female country stars of her era, a commercially successful hitmaker who was able to bring elements of folk, bluegrass, gospel, and singer/songwriter intimacy to her music. Mattea was born in Cross Lane, WV, in 1959 and received classical voice training starting in junior high, but also took up the guitar when she discovered folk music. In 1976, while in college, she joined the bluegrass band Pennsboro and two years later dropped out of school to move to...
Full Bio
Untasted Honey, Kathy Mattea
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