By the middle of the 2000s, it was clear Kathy’s time in the limelight was over. One last album for MCA (The Innocent Years) failed to score any hit singles, and she moved to independent label Narada, where she was able to concentrate on artistry with little thought for commercial viability. The second of her albums for this label came out in 2005. This is not a very country sounding record, but it bears the hallmarks of evident thought and attention throughout, and is clearly a serious artistic endeavour.
‘Live It’, the solo single failed to chart. Not one of Harley Allen’s better songs, it’s a cluttered and unoriginal exhortation to live life to the full and concentrate on love. ‘Hurt Some’ is a jazzy AC ballad with a gospel feel (particularly in the vocals). The rather obvious lyrics attempt to be insightful, advising a woman to expect a range of emotional ups and downs, written by Tia Sillers and Mark D Sanders.
‘Only Heaven Knows’ is quite a pretty ballad about acceptance of one’s lot, which is much better. ‘Give It Away’ is an artfully constructed, melodic and beautifully sung song written by Kathy with husband Jon Vezner and Bob Halligan. The three-story structure narrates encounters with individuals (a veteran star backstage, a woman in a doctor’s waiting room, and finally the protagonist saving herself from breaking off a love affair in a fit of pique following an argument), giving the sage advice that with music and love,
The only way to keep is to give it away
The best of the more philosophical songs here is Darrell Scott’s ‘Love’s Not Through With Me Yet’, given a plaintive Celtic sound and with Suzy Bogguss on harmony.
The title track is an okay but unexciting story song about a woman moving on, with an attractive melody. The breakup song ‘Loving You, Letting You Go’ is lyrically forgettable but the wheezy harmonica gives it some sonic character.
The best song is ‘I Hope You’re Happy Now’, a subtly cutting piano ballad written by Skip Ewing and Angela Kaset, which sounds tailor-made for Trisha Yearwood, although Kathy does a fine job. It narrates a meeting with the woman the protagonist’s ex left her for, finding he has moved on again:
I thought the only thing wrong with her was you
Cause you don’t find joy within
You’re always wanting out
That’s not what love is all about
You’ll never find happiness
Til you let your heart invest
Baby you don’t know how
I hope you’re happy now
This is an excellent song which is well worth downloading even if nothing else here appeals.
Kathy extended her artistic range with a couple of unexpected rock covers. The Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’ is performed confidently, and is the biggest departure from preconceived ideas of what a Kathy Mattea record sounds like. It’s not to my taste, but is interestingly done with inventive acoustic production, and Kathy deserves credit for trying something so different. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Down On The Corner’ is an enjoyable singalong. ‘Wade In The Water’, meanwhile, is a traditional gospel song which is played around with a little too much.
This record was an interesting experiment. Not everything works, but a period in the commercial doldrums is the obvious time to try branching out. Used copies can be found very cheaply