Inclined To Miss Patsy

Patsy Cline is one of the most sacred angels of country music, but there was a time when Mandy Barnett got pretty sick of her. For two years, Barnett portrayed Cline in a Nashville musical, "Always--Patsy Cline." Every night she put on her wig and a cowgirl outfit and belted out "Crazy" with a passion so fierce it was almost otherworldly. By the time her run ended, Barnett was drained, physically and emotionally. "I went to a voice teacher," she says. "I guess I needed to get de-Clined. Having to sing like someone else for two years--that could end up hurting you."

But Patsy paid her back. Owen Bradley, who produced Cline's legendary late '50s- early '60s hits, caught Barnett's performance, and when she later signed with Sire Records he came on board as producer. Four songs on her new album, "I've Got a Right to Cry," are the last record-ings Bradley made before he died last year at 82. "Owen was so confident in the studio," Barnett says. "We cut the four songs in three hours, live with strings and everything. Which is how they used to make records. Everybody just got inspired."

They sound inspired. On the title track and "The Whispering Wind," Bradley's stardusty strings and sweetened honky-tonk recall not just Cline's sides, but a whole golden era of Nashville country-pop, when twang went uptown and standards headed south. Barnett's voice still evokes Cline--she hasn't unlearned how to sing those high notes that make you cry--but she has shades of her own, including a startlingly tender low range. Barnett, 23, grew up in Tennessee singing torch songs and gospel, and she thinks that's just what she's made for. "I couldn't sing rock and roll," she says. "There's some three-chord things that may seem easy, that I couldn't sing as well." Tough on her, but easy on us.