IF K. D. LANG tries to update the Patsy Cline sound with a dose of modern irony, then Marsha Thornton tries to do it without irony. Her debut album, "Marsha Thornton," embraces the melodramatic aspects of Cline's classic country recordings without reservation, singing as if romantic trauma were no contrivance but a real factor in Thornton's own life and the lives of her listeners. The result is an old-fashioned country album full of strong singing and unabashed sentiment.
Owen Bradley, who not only produced Cline's great later work but also lang's "Shadowland," produced "Marsha Thornton" with his usual deference to a great voice -- using strings and pedal steel to frame the vocal story rather than pad it. Thornton's voice is so strong that it can hold back without sacrificing its robust tone; so when she lets go on the choruses, it really counts for something. She is able to sing convincingly about heartache without sounding whiny or self-pitying.
When Thornton sings "A Bottle of Wine and Patsy Cline," she persuades us that the song is not a show-biz move but really is about a woman assuaging her hurt with liquor and old records. This 25-year-old singer makes the old Bob Wills Texas swing tune "Deep Water" sound like a recent George Strait single, and she makes a new song like Max D. Barnes's "The Other Shoe" sound like an obscure 1953 Ray Price single. Thornton is one to watch.
MARSHA THORNTON -- "Marsha Thornton" (MCA). Appearing Sunday at Zed Restaurant.