Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Mandy Barnett

  • Mandy Barnett [Asylum, 1996] Choice Cuts
  • I've Got a Right to Cry [Sire, 1999] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Mandy Barnett [Asylum, 1996]
"Planet of Love" Choice Cuts

I've Got a Right to Cry [Sire, 1999]
The main thing her critics'-choice debut proved was that when you put a good young singer up against a bunch of Kostas songs, the Kostas songs win. Not that this 23-year-old Patsy Cline fan is any less produced or conceptualized here--more so, actually. But the conceptualization is so audacious, and so perfectly suited to her timbre and swing, that it's more fun than what it rips off, by which I mean countrypolitan. The strings, the prefab licks, the rinky-dink beats, the hooks with exclamation points on them, the background singers going woo-oo-oo and whoa-oh--everything the late Owen Bradley did for and to country music is here, with Owen himself overseeing four tracks and his brother-partner Harold following his notes on the rest. Yet Barnett has these wonderful pipes, and not only does she sing as if she loves the songs, she sings as if she can scarcely contain her warm fuzzy feelings for the style itself. My fave is "Trademark," originally a c&w No. 2 for the forgotten hit machine Carl Smith in 1952. But the new-growth corn tastes just as good with a coating of caramel. A-