Mandy Barnett

Some years ago, I happened to see a country music video for a song called "Planet of Love," sung by a young female performer who stopped me cold dead in my tracks. Her voice was big and powerful and gorgeous, sounding startlingly similar to the legendary Patsy Cline. She seemed to come out of another time, the complete antithesis of the bloodless, watered-down pop trash that sadly passes for country music these days. Plus, unlike the Shania Twains and Faith Hills with their barbie-doll bodies, this amazing singer was a cute chubby brunette -- just my type!

I tried to make a mental note of her name at the end of the video, but like a moron I soon forgot it, and she faded away like an enchanted vision. A long time after that, my beautiful singer resurfaced with an new album, and appeared on Letterman. This time, I wasn't going to let her get away. Her name was Mandy Barnett.

Mandy got her first professional break by starring in "Always... Patsy Cline," a Nashville stage show in which she delivered her astoundingly faithful renditions of "Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces," and all the Patsy classics. She got the chance to step outside Patsy Cline's shadow with her 1996 debut album, but she still didn't entirely get to be herself, pressured by her record label into more of a country-pop sound than she would have liked. Mandy's follow-up album was a giant leap forward, a lavish collection of pure country ballads co-produced by Owen Bradley, the man who produced Patsy Cline's records.

Always... Patsy Cline In the summer of 2000, Mandy returned to performing "Always... Patsy Cline" for a limited run, and I went to Nashville's Ryman Auditorium to see the show. I've seen a lot of great live music performances in my day, but this was something magical. In person, Mandy looked and sounded like a living goddess -- honestly, like a being not of this earth. In 2005, I got the opportunity to see her perform for three consecutive days at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Witnessing her performing as herself instead of playing the role of Patsy Cline was a whole different kind of joy. I am in love. Mandy has accomplished the formerly unthinkable, and dethroned Anna Nicole Smith as my ultimate fantasy woman.

The tragedy of Mandy Barnett is that it's taking her freaking forever to get a new album recorded and released. She has had recording contracts fall through and creative differenced with producers thwarting her every effort to get that third album made. She has chosen the difficult route of releasing her next recording independently, and she promises it will finally see the light of day in 2007. Still, she's only just entered her thirties, and bound to become even more skilled over time, and she's already hands-down the best female singer in country music today. And yet she remains a little-known cult figure on the country scene, which only demonstrates what a total absurdity mainstream country music has become. Her extended hiatus between recordings is just making it that much easier for the country music community to forget about her. Mandy's singing is just too good for today's "country lite" fans to deal with, and better than those achy-breaky trogs deserve. And one day I will make her my wife.

Mandy Barnett Albums
"Always... Patsy Cline" Original Cast Recording (1995)
Mandy Barnett (1996)
I've Got a Right to Cry (1999)
Winter Wonderland (2010)
Sweet Dreams (2011)
I Can't Stop Loving You: The Songs of Don Gibson (2013)

Mandy Barnett Gallery


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