An overdriven guitar lick comes roaring out of the darkness with a vibrant tonality that is just begging for us to chase after its supple rhythm as we enter “Where I Stand,” Amanda Barrett’s debut single, but the churning country grooves are only getting fired up by the time we reach the first verse of the song. Galloping mandolin strings dance like flickering flames atop a gritty percussive strut that keeps us on the edge of our seats while Barrett belts out her smooth pastoral poetry. The melodies are the size of the Canadian Rockies, and while this Toronto-based singer/songwriter is still getting her feet wet in the industry with the release of this single, she’s demonstrating a natural talent in the recording studio that has critics abuzz from one side of the continent to the next right now.

Barrett’s sweet singing is the centerpiece of “Where I Stand,” but our star certainly doesn’t sell us short with the feverish riff rock that cushions her vocal track. The strings are rife with texture and emotion, the drums are lively and ready to pounce on us if given some room by the beefy bassline, and the binding rhythm keeping everything held together in the song is at once a stampede of color and yet an understated embodiment of all the passion in Barrett’s heart. “Where I Stand” delivers a gut-punch of percussion laced with smart lyricism, but the focus in the master mix is always directed towards the divine relationship between the singer and her backing band.

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This mix is a lot more stylish than I was expecting to hear out of an up and comer new to the circuit, but then again, most everything about the music that Amanda Barrett has been dishing out lately sits outside the boundaries of the normal status quo. All of the instrumentation is arranged around the vocal, but through this erudite approach to the soundboard, it’s ensured that we’re able to absorb every stitch of sonic intensity produced in the chaos between the drums and the string section. If that isn’t the epitome of making an engaging pop song – of any variety – than I really don’t know what else could be. Barrett might be the new kid on the block, but she’s already making contemporaries with twice her experience look like amateurs in “Where I Stand.”

There’s no debating it – I am completely in love with the sound of this Canadian songwriter’s rookie single, and I cannot wait to see what she does with her talent as she cultivates this artistry into a fully-developed war chest of skills. Amanda Barrett has, by her own admission, shared a connection with music since infancy, and after years of allowing her gifts to grow and take shape without the pressures of the public eye, she’s prepared to take her rightful place atop the country music throne once and for all. She’s facing some stiff competition from an ambitious alternative country scene south of the border, but something tells me that once her music gets the platform that it needs to reach the masses, the narrative surrounding the genre’s future is going be partly forged around her style.

Michael Rand

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Michael Rand

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