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Walking Away a Winner

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Album Review

Walking Away a Winner is the rocked-up/pop side of Kathy Mattea. With records by Mary Chapin Carpenter gathering steam as well as those of Beth Nielsen Chapman, Lucinda Williams getting some notice, and Bonnie Raitt riding the very top of the charts over the previous two years, Mattea took a listen and apparently liked what she heard. There are layers and layers of guitars on the album, and nowhere are they borne out more than on the title track that opens the album. With producer Josh Leo and a deck of tough songs, Mattea showed a side her country audience hadn't yet seen, and one that the adult contemporary and emerging AAA formats could embrace. In other words, the album, with its tightly knit group of astonishingly well-written pop songs done in a slight country manner by a crack group of players, was a winning formula. It's a record that stands the test of time. What makes Mattea such a great singer — besides her gift of a voice — is her empathy. She finds herself in every song she records. On tape, there is no separation between her and her characters, whether it's the woman finally walking away from a dead relationship and seeing herself not as beaten but as free in the title track, the rambling woman relentlessly seeking that lost love no matter where the search takes her in the rollicking "Streets of Your Town," or the overworked, underappreciated wife and mother who breaks down in "Maybe She's Human." From "Clown in Your Rodeo," with its ringing electric 12-strings and hard-swinging refrain, through the final track, the haunting jazzy ballad "Who's Gonna Know," conviction and commitment are fully on display, along with an elegance that is both accessible and sophisticated. This is a winner indeed.

Customer Reviews

The Reviewer Nailed It

While I do not always agree with the reviewers on iTunes, they got it right on this one. I especially agree with the comment about her bringing tremendous empathy in her singing. This is a fine Kathy Mattea offering and was certainly reflective of the trends established by female country artists at the time. Her best albums always allowed relatively simple musical arrangements to support her awesome voice. However, this one comes on stronger instrumentally, especially with the use of more electric guitars and strings. It was definitely different for her, and she pulled it off well. Yet, for me, the most powerful song here is the one that most resembles her earlier works with its thought provoking message..."Who's Gonna Know." But the reviewer also got it right on the other tracks mentioned, each of which are very good.


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

Top Albums and Songs by Kathy Mattea

Walking Away a Winner, Kathy Mattea
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