Mandy Barnett is shining a light on one of country music’s legendary songwriters, Don Gibson. On a tribute album being served up by Cracker Barrel on Nov. 11, she delivers standards like “Sweet Dreams,” “Oh Lonesome Me” and the project’s title track, “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”
Celebrated for portraying the title role in Always … Patsy Cline at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Barnett befriended Gibson when she was an aspiring singer in her 20s. Now she’s now honoring the Country Music Hall of Fame member by surrounding herself with studio all-stars like guitarist Harold Bradley, pianist Hargus “Pig” Robbins, harmonica player Charlie McCoy, steel guitarist Lloyd Green and drummer Gene Chrisman.
Although she kept some of the arrangements faithful to the original versions, Barnett chose a different angle for Gibson’s 1958 No. 1 hit, “Blue Blue Day.” As producer of the project, she slowed down the tempo and enlisted Alison Krauss for elegant harmony.
Barnett feels the new version would’ve pleased Gibson, who died in 2003.
“Don didn’t especially like the song ‘Blue Blue Day,’” Barnett recalls. “It was a big hit, but he said that was his least favorite song he’d ever written. He tried to do it a couple of different ways, and he said he never could really figure it out. One day I was sitting in the kitchen, and I was playing sort of a straight eighth note feel, because it’s something that I instinctively know how to do, and I just started singing ‘Blue Blue Day.’
She continues, “I called up Harold Bradley and said, ‘Can I sing this song this way?’ And he said, ‘Well, I don’t see why not.’ So that’s how that song came to be a ballad. I wish that Don could’ve heard it sung as a ballad because it just changes the whole feel of that song. It actually makes it more sad. Originally, he did it very fast. I think that he absolutely would have loved this.”
Enjoy the CMT Edge premiere of Mandy Barnett’s “Blue Blue Day.”