To say that it’s not very often that a debut single enjoys the buzz that Amanda Barrett’s “Where I Stand” is receiving today might be the understatement of the year, but that isn’t stopping country music buffs from singing the burgeoning songwriter’s praises this March. Influenced by a mixture of old school country outlaws, southern rockers and Canadian singer/songwriters, Barrett’s strain of roots music flirts with the experimental side of the genre but never trips into the negative excesses that come with artistic overindulgence. If “Where I Stand” is an embodiment of her provocative style of play as a whole, than the upcoming EP that it was cut from is almost certain to be a smash hit.
Barrett flexes some serious lyrical muscle in this track, and touches on elements of smart, self-aware reflection without ever becoming pretentious or egotistical in the delivery of the narrative. Unlike alternative Nashville, she doesn’t want to wow us with a lot of virtuosic vocal melodies here; rather than doing something that predictable, she instead chooses to flaunt her command of bucolic prose in the verses. There’s no arguing that she made the right choice for multiple reasons – chief among them being that it makes “Where I Stand” so much more appealing and original than any of the output by her closest rivals.
The string play is super crisp in this master mix, and largely just as textured and expressive as Barrett’s actual singing is. If there’s a story to be told in “Where I Stand,” it’s being conveyed not only though the wistful poetry that she’s dishing out from center stage, but moreover, from the gorgeous melodies being emitted from her backing band. I hope that she keeps this set of players intact when she decides to go on her first major tour; their chemistry is sublime, and that’s not always a given in this industry.
This multilayered arrangement of the instruments really exploits Amanda Barrett’s vocal range beautifully. If she has even a fraction of this stellar presence that she boasts in “Where I Stand” during any of her stage performances, then you’d better make sure to see her in person whenever she comes through your town on tour. Her serenade is dripping with swagger from start to finish here, and for my money, it’s on a more sophisticated level of expression than almost anything else currently being promoted by a major country music label.
“Where I Stand” sits in the very top tier of new country songs due out this season, and I’m far from the only critic saying as much right now. Amanda Barrett is on fire this year, and I think that her first EP (also titled Where I Stand) is going to be met with an overwhelmingly warm reception this month. It’s led by a single that, for all intents and purposes, sports a much more engaging musicality than anything you’re going to find in this genre (or elsewhere) at the moment, and was composed by a fresh face who shows a lot of promise as a performer. 2019 is going to be a big year for music, and this artist is definitely going to be one of its more important players.