Like their friend band the Flaming Lips, the Mercury Rev’s new project is a covers album of a classic LP from years past. But while the Lips turned to familiar and acclaimed bands like the Beatles and Pink Floyd for their efforts, Mercury Rev is shining a deserved light on an underappreciated cult classic – Bobbie Gentry’s 1968 album The Delta Sweete.
While the debut album from the Mississippi singer-songwriter featured the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit “Ode to Billie Joe,” an eerie vignette about the secrets and tensions bubbling beneath the surface of small-town Southern life, her second outing boasted no such critical or commercial smash; whereas her first topped the Billboard 200, The Delta Sweete stalled at No. 132 and was mostly forgotten over the years. The enigmatic Gentry would see additional chart success with some Glen Campbell duets and the original version of “Fancy” (which was a hit for Reba McEntire two decades later) before retiring in the ‘70s and cutting herself off entirely from the industry and the public.
But as curiosity over this prodigiously talented country singer who walked away from it all grew over the years, so did interest in The Delta Sweete, a pioneering mix of swampy R&B-tinged rock and country-folk presided over by her beguiling, dusty voice.