For a lot of recording artists, putting out a holiday album is a way to contractually tread water, but that isn’t the case with singer Mandy Barnett, who has always admired the holiday songs and albums that came out of Nashville in the early 1960s, when Brenda Lee, Elvis Presley, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Jim Reeves, and others where releasing holiday tracks featuring the classic Nashville Sound. For Winter Wonderland, which was originally released in 2010, Barnett sought to re-create that vintage sound of 50 years ago, right down to working with some of the veteran Nashville musicians who played on those original sessions, like Harold Bradley, Lloyd Green, Louis Nunley, Gene Chrisman, and Tony Migliore, and she succeeds wonderfully. Winter Wonderland sounds nostalgic in the best sense, and by doing so, manages to be sort of timeless in its own right. A lot of that is due to Barnett's singing voice and style, which have always been more like Patsy Cline than Shania Twain, and here she executes everything perfectly, with songs like “Winter Wonderland,” "Jingle Bell Rock," "A Holly Jolly Christmas," and "Marshmallow World" coming off as somehow both old and new at the same time, and one can almost imagine Perry Como, Brenda Lee, Burl Ives, and Connie Francis stepping out of a bygone era to stop by and sing with Barnett at the sessions. It’s a delicate thing to pull off, appropriating a sound from 50 years ago and walking that thin line of nostalgia without falling into gimmicky facsimile. Barnett does it perfectly and wonderfully.
Winter Wonderland Review
by Steve Leggett