December 07, 1992 12:00 PM

Kathy Mattea

Mattea often seems too substantial, too mature, to be a country singer. That’s the complimentary part. The but is that she doesn’t often seem to be having much fun.

This album is typically sobersided, musically satisfying and full of thoughtful songs, but more of a head-scratcher than a toe-tapper. The title tune, by Jim Rushing and Larry Cordle, is less glib than the clever title line might suggest. The title is, in fact, a hook that isn’t attached to anything; most of the lyrics are as prosaic as, “If you shudder at the music of a hoot owl in the pines/You’re on lonesome standard time.” More surprising—and playful—is “Lonely at the Bottom,” with Matt Rollings’s honky-tonk piano spicing up the wordplay.

Mattea is such a strong-voiced singer that she can shift into the near gospel of “Seeds.” Hitting all the notes isn’t the same—or as exalted an undertaking—as being inspired, however. If Mattea is a mechanic when you’d rather she were a sculptor, though, she’s always unusually interesting. This album is no exception. (Mercury)

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