Picks and Pans Review: Time Passes
If Mattea's previous six albums are classifiable as folk-tinged country, this one is country-tinged folk, the kind of thing Judy Collins has done for years. It is clean-sounding, vivid and full of songs that are always intriguing, if not always smart.
To get the dumbness out of the way, Don Henry's "Harley" sounds like a motorcycle commercial, and a bad one at that, telling the story of "a motorcycle mama and her man" who name their new son after their favorite brand of bike, lose him when their sidecar breaks loose and eventually meet him as a grown man at a fairgrounds. (The only emotion the song evokes is relief that the couple wasn't partial to Kawasakis.)
Mattea and producer Allen Reynolds chose better in Hugh Prestwood's "Asking Us to Dance," a swoon-worthy romantic tune: "Why don't we get caught in this moment/ Be victims of sweet circumstance/ Tonight I feel like all creation/ Is asking us to dance." The Jon Vezner-Pat Alger song "A Few Good Things Remain" and Beth Nielsen Chapman's "What Could Have Been" are uncommonly evocative too.
Mattea's version of Julie Gold's "From a Distance" (like Nanci Griffith's) also suggests a more complex interpretation of the song than Bette Midler's does—the nuance-blurring aspects of looking through the wrong end of the telescope being obviously open to varied interpretation.
Mattea sounds in strong voice and remains among the most insightful countryfolk-whatever sisters—a quality that, it turns out, asserts itself even more when she doesn't have to sing about trucks and trains. (Mercury)