Kathy Mattea has always teetered on the Nashville edge with her music. On Roses, her 13th studio album, she pushes the envelope, bringing to the forefront the blending of the Scottish/Irish music found in small doses on her last few albums. "That's All the Lumber You Sent," the first track, screams Celtic, as does the instrumental "Isle of Inishmore." But whatever the musical style, brooding and contemplative lyrics accompany all of the tracks. Mattea's warm alto voice comes across opulently in "The Slender Threads That Bind Us Here" and the Kim Richey remake "I'm Alright." This album isn't the country music of the former Grammy-winner and CMA vocalist of the year, but it wins high marks for creative expression and originality.
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Meditations on things that matter is the theme of Kathy Mattea's Roses, and as such it's a fitting sequel to her 2000 gem, The Innocent Years. Now recording for the independent Narada label and co-producing (with Ed Cash), Mattea offers a collection of songs that take an intimate and uncompromising look at what love can do to a person's emotional life. And while Roses is at least as personal as The Innocent Years, it's also her most musically ambitious album. Mainstream country this is not: There are many folk-styled arrangements, liberally flavored with mid-tempo rock, and a number of songs incorporating Irish melodies and arrangements. The Irish connection is made explicit with the first rousing fiddle notes on "That's All the Lumber You Sent," which occasionally breaks into a tin whistle-powered jig, and two evocative instrumentals, the poignant air "Isle of Inishmore, Part 1" and the rollicking jig "Isle of Inishmore, Part 2." It's heady stuff, and content-rich, too: "I'm Alright" (penned by Kim Richey) is a triumphant survivor's report, and "Ashes in the Wind" recounts a love that survives the grave. Mattea's masterful ballad performances on "Where've You Been" and the introspective, gospel-touched "The Slender Threads That Bind Us Here" prove the depth of her gifts. These dozen Roses are a thing of beauty, indeed.
All Music Guide - Maria Konicki Dinoia
Entertainment Weekly - Alanna Nash
A beautiful set of songs balancing the secular and the spiritual. (A-)
USA Today - Brian Mansfield
Mattea remains one of Nashville's most spiritual singers, and the songs she sings about love lost and humillity are as fine as any she has recorded.