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Album Review: Mercury Rev - Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited

7 February 2019 | 1:12 pm | Guido Farnell

"Each song on this album sparkles brilliantly, making it a compelling listen from start to finish."

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Stepping out from the swinging '60s, Bobbie Gentry treated us to a short but highly successful career that saw her soft, deep voice applied to an almost pop-country sound that was very gently sophisticated. Back in the day, Gentry could take on Dusty Springfield with her own Son Of A Preacher Man and her version of I’ll Never Fall In Love Again is perhaps softer and more subtle than Dionne Warwick’s interpretation. Looking back, it seemed that Gentry had talent to spare. She danced at Folies Bergere in Las Vegas, played guitar and, beyond covering a lot of popular songs of the day, wrote her own. A bona fide Mississippi queen her album The Delta Sweete saw the gal from Chickasaw County celebrating her Delta roots. Gentry notched up success quickly and enigmatically retired from the business in her early 30s and became a recluse.

Mercury Rev, in celebrating Gentry’s work, throw light on a masterful slice of classic Americana, that, without the luxury of reissue, has largely been fading from our collective memories. Gentry gets a dreamy makeover. The folk and country influences swirl in among Mercury Rev’s fantastical cosmic flourishes that are refined and restrained. They sprinkle stardust over Gentry’s earthy tunes and the effect feels like Mercury Rev are indulging in nostalgia for a time and place that’s long gone. Lucinda Williams' gritty take on Ode To Billie Joe, although a touch slow, ought to have older listeners dreaming of the '60s. Each song on this album sparkles brilliantly, making it a compelling listen from start to finish. To bring these songs to life, Mercury Rev have recruited perhaps the most stellar, jaw-droppingly amazing array of female vocalists to take us on a trip down the Mississippi. Norah Jones, Hope Sandoval, Susanne Sundfor, Vashti Bunyan, Marissa Nadler and Beth Orton among many others well and truly bring these songs to life. An instant classic in Mercury Rev’s canon.