November 16, 1987 12:00 PM

Kathy Mattea

There’s nothing fancy about this record. There are no Nashville hordes singing choral backup, no strings, no clever titles. It’s just Mattea, sounding warm, strong, smart and generally splendid. Life As We Knew It is a casually painful song about a woman on her way out: “The cat’s in a cage/To leave at your mother’s/ I’ll be halfway to Asheville when you wake up alone.” Tim O’Brien joins her for an effective duet on the Don Schlitz-Paul Overstreet tune The Battle Hymn of Love. And in the unlikely event that there’s any more room in the Truck Song Hall of Fame, Mattea offers Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses, which has the requisite let’s-pass-up-that-station-wagon-on-the-down-hill-run rhythm and the distinction of being about a driver nearing retirement. The instruments are mostly accoustic, and Mattea is a natural too. This is her fourth album and it’s past time to compare her with anyone else. Soon people will be wanting to liken new women singers to Kathy Mattea, but very few will be able to live up to those standards. (Mercury)

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