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*** MANDY BARNETT "I've Got a Right To Cry"; Sire

April 11, 1999|RANDY LEWIS

A lot of people snapped to attention at the astonishing, Patsy Cline-like vocal power Barnett unleashed on her 1996 debut album. One was venerated Nashville producer Owen Bradley, who came out of retirement to guide her sophomore outing (in stores Tuesday), but died last year after they'd finished just four of the album's dozen songs.

His influence, and Cline's, are strong here--at times Barnett seems almost swallowed by them. Where her still-emerging musical identity begins to shine through is in her penchant for songs that traverse the bluesy side of country music.

She's only 23, though compared to fellow vocal powerhouse LeAnn Rimes that's practically middle-aged.

Barnett, however, is far more effective at connecting with the emotions she sings about--especially gut-wrenching sadness. The restraint she shows in Don Williams' "Mistakes" unveils a great singer--not just a great voice.

The album looks heavily, and fondly, to country's past with lots of '50s and '60s torch songs from Don Gibson, Carl Smith, Jim Reeves and others. Barnett's next challenge will be to turn her gaze forward, the way similarly big-voiced thrushes k.d. lang and Linda Ronstadt did.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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