Mandy Barnett

Strange Conversation

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Mandy Barnett casts her net wide on Strange Conversation, her first album since a 2013 tribute to Don Gibson and, really, her first album not to be in a strictly traditional country vein. Working with co-producers Doug Lancio and Marco Giovino, who have respectively collaborated with Patty Griffin and Robert Plant, Barnett decides to play a little bit of everything that constitutes Americana in 2018. This certainly encompasses the straight-ahead country that's firmly within her wheelhouse, but Barnett attempts a bunch of new things, ranging from the sultry Southern R&B groove of the title track to the gritty blues of "Put a Chain on It." Most of Strange Conversation is grounded in the soul identified with Muscle Shoals, which is where the album was recorded, but Barnett bends the form to suit her needs, flaunting a sly wit when she records a John Hiatt duet that sounds like a Tom Waits song ("A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done") and a Tom Waits song that sounds like funk ("Puttin' on the Dog"). It all adds up to what may be the richest record of her career: surprising, lively, and deeply felt.

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