New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
Mandy Barnett laughs when she's asked "What took you so long?" to make Strange Conversation, her progressive take on the postmodern American songbook. It was released today, September
21, 2018, on Dame Productions via Thirty Tigers.
Sure, she's a classicist who's channeled Patsy Cline in a theatrical musical, recorded classic country songs with legendary producer Owen Bradley, and transfixed known musicos Seymour Stein, Arif Mardin and Ahmet Ertegun with her timeless stylings. But Barnett, who signed her first major label deal at age 12, decided she needed a change.
"I needed to cleanse my palette," explains the woman with a voice that's all sultry velour. "I'm a torch singer, somebody who can do a little bit of everything. Pop, blues, gospel, country, soul — songs with emotion are what I do." And so, she had to decide what to do next. While musical soul-searching, Barnett honed her symphony show (performing with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit
Symphony Orchestra, and the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast) and even reached back to an old passion — visual art — to get her creative juices flowing in a fresh direction. In between touring performing art centers, historic theaters and concert halls, and making gallery-exhibited artwork, Barnett embraced thoughts of finding different material to record.
She pauses for a moment, weighing the jolt to longtime fans versus the reality of her new music. "But honestly, it's all me," says Barnett. "It's all aspects of who I am." Because for Barnett, a singer who's captivated Owen Bradley, the idea of her musical future is as compelling as the idea of honoring classic country's past.
"The truth is every album I've made has been Americana, even that first Asylum album with the Jim Lauderdale songs, but the arrangements were more timeless, more to the classic songbook. And Americana's a broad genre that has elements of pop and retro, soul music. So this time, I leaned away from what people expect from me — and into things that made me reach, and stretch."
Produced by Marco
Giovino and Doug Lancio for Thirty Tigers and Barnett's own label Dame Productions, Strange Conversation places the vocalist between obscure vintage pop and modern progressive songwriting. Think Lee Hazlewood and The Tams meet Tom Waits
and Greg Garing with a little Mable John thrown in. If it sounds too good to be true, Hazlewood's "The Fool," the Tams' "It's All Right (You're Just in Love)," Waits' ""Puttin' on the Dog" and Garing's "Dream Too Real to Hold" are all part of the conversation, a musky brew of desire, rapture, and discovery.
Already, music critics have picked up on Barnett's soulful new sounds:
"Anyone who saw singer Mandy Barnett playing the title role in Always … Patsy Cline or heard her splendid 2013 tribute LP to singer-songwriter Don Gibson is already aware of Barnett's ability to deliver polished Nashville Sound classics with panache. The Tennessee native, who grazed the country charts in the late Nineties with Americana-ready material when that movement was in its infancy, earned considerable praise for her vocal range and should be well-positioned to do the same with regard to the breadth of material on her forthcoming album …the LP bursts forth with a dynamic array of tunes from the worlds of pop, R&B and folk." —ROLLING STONE COUNTRY
"One of the best singers in a town filled with exceptional ones … If fans of Americana music embrace this album as it deserves, more beautiful surprises from Mandy Barnett may be in store." —NASHVILLE SCENE
"In the 25 years since, she's earned a reputation as a stellar interpreter of classic country songs. New album Strange Conversation… is unlike anything the singer has done before." —THE TENNESSEAN
"This is an album that will live forever." Her voice is funky and golden at the same time, no easy trick, and she carries so much emotional weight on everything she sings there is no denying that greatness has entered the house." —Bentley's Bandstand, THE MORTON REPORT
"Barnett comes along with the best country album of the year (2018)."—NO DEPRESSION
(Rated #4 of 6 Memorable AmericanaFest Moments): "Mandy Barnett at the Mercy Lounge exceeded my expectations. She and her full band not only performed the new album, Strange Conversation, in its entirety, they did so in a manner that made me lose myself in her mind-bending blend of low-down, hip-swinging, Tom Waits-inspired country soul Muscle Shoals blues." —NO DEPRESSION
"The remarkable Strange Conversation marks a new beginning for Barnett and shows a new side of her as an artist."—WIDE OPEN COUNTRY
"She's been typecast as a country neo-traditionalist, but at heart she has always been a torch singer. Thus, the new Strange Conversation CD's repertoire spans Sanford Clark ("The Fool
"), The Tams ("It's All Right
"), Tom Waits
("Puttin' on the Dog"), Mabel
Johns ("More Lovin'") and Greg Garing ("Dream Too Real to Hold"), because all lend themselves to her sultry stylings." —MUSIC ROW
Mandy Barnett will take the road next month, with these early dates confirmed:
Wed., Oct. 17 HAZELTON, PA Greater Hazelton Concert Series
Thurs., Oct. 18 WASHINGTON, D.C. DC City Winery
Sun., Oct. 21 SELLERSVILLE, PA Sellersville Theater
Sat., Nov. 3 CADDO MILLS, TX Bob Wills Fiddle Fest
Fri., Nov. 9 SAINT MARYS, OH Bearcreek Memories Concert Series