Every now and again, atypical singer-songwriters break through the dense walls of mainstream success. Willie Nelson did it. Lyle Lovett came close. But Katy Moffatt hasn't even put a scratch on the bulwark. It appears that this country-folk-blues-pop-rock artist is destined to remain within the confines of unconventional country, right next to the likes of Nanci Griffith and Lucinda Williams.
It's not that Moffatt hasn't worked hard for recognition. She sang backup for Tanya Tucker and Lynn Anderson. She's appeared in a few movies, like Black Jack in '69 and Honeymoon in Vegas in '92. Several Moffatt tunes, including her debut single, "I Can Almost See Houston From Here," have hit the charts. The bottom of the charts, but the charts nonetheless. Moffatt's folksy, John Denver-ish style, however, won't slide neatly into any of the tight categories created by the music industry. Consequently, many potential listeners will likely never hear a Moffatt song on their radios (or stereos, for that matter).
Which is too bad. She has a storytelling ability that rivals such artists as Tom T. Hall. Her vocal range, though similar to many country-folk music divas, thankfully lacks the breathy, "I'm-trying-to-be-sexy-here" techniques used by most. If anything, her songs lean toward the western tunes created by those living in the Roy Rogers era -- long before the "country" was placed in front of "western." Case in point: Her latest CD, Cowboy Girl, sports the superb, rough-riding single "When I Was a Cowboy." This song is a true yippee-ki-yo-ki-ya tune that conjures images of ranch hands sitting around a campfire on a spacious Montana spread, tipping a few and singing the songs of yesteryear.
Thus, even if Moffatt continues to fail at crashing through the barrier of commercial acceptance, at least she manages to avoid becoming another brick in the wall of watered-down country.
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