Mandy Barnett Delves Into Numerous Seminal Styles With ‘Strange Conversation’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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Quick categorization often incurs the danger of stereotyping an artist whose versatility deserves far better. While it may be a convenient way to pigeonhole a performer, it also runs a risk of ignoring their great capabilities.

After six albums, Mandy Barnett’s been confined to the broad category of a country singer. However like Patsy Cline, who she so ably portrayed in the musical Always…Patsy Cline, Barnett’s music encompasses broader boundaries that can accommodate her soulful sway and bluesier bluster. She is nothing less than an able chanteuse and exceptional entertainer whose talents deserve ample attention from a wider audience.

Barnett’s new album, Strange Conversation, is an ideal example. It finds Barnett delving into any number of seminal styles, from the steady soulful strut of the title track, a song Al Green and the late Willy Mitchell ought to have once considered adapting into their repertoire, to the girl group groove “It’s All Right (You’re Just In Love),” a song that the Ronnettes could have commandeered to get them back to the top of the pops. “A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done,” featuring a cameo by John Hiatt, alters the template entirely, with a blunt yet emphatic instrumental assault that verges on industrial insurgence. Likewise, the gypsy tango of “All Night” has her sounding like Cher during her radio run of the mid-‘70s.

Mainly though, Barnett proves herself a sexy, sensual siren capable of exuding a come-hither glance that most would find all but irresistible. On songs such as “All Night,” “Put a Chain On It” and “My World Keeps Slipping Away” she exudes a nocturnal gaze that’s stirringly suggestive. It’s a cool, charismatic charm that elevates her to a rarified height of sophisticated stature and a most emphatic embrace. There’s nothing especially strange about this conversation, but it could be considered a mesmerizing encounter all the same.

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