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.
For their passion project reimagining of the lost classic, Mercury Rev turned to a variety of female singers to fill Gentry’s rhinestone-studded boots, including Norah Jones, Margo Price, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucinda Williams and Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, who gives a delicate, atmospheric touch to the album’s “Big Boss Man,” a cover of a hit from bluesman Jimmy Reed that premieres below.
Sandoval allows that while singing the tune, she took a few liberties.
“Well, the only boss man in my life is my cat Herman so this song was a bit tricky for me, but I am so honored to have been asked to be a part of this amazing group of women paying tribute to such an inspirational artist,” she explains. “I’ve always been a fan of Mercury Rev and Bobbie Gentry. So needless to say I am over the moon to be a part of this project.”
Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited is out Feb. 8. Check out the full tracklist below.
01. Okolona River Bottom Band (feat. Norah Jones)
02. Big Boss Man (feat. Hope Sandoval)
03. Reunion (feat. Rachel Goswell)
04. Parchman Farm (feat. Carice van Houten)
05. Mornin’ Glory (feat. Laetitia Sadier)
06. Sermon (feat. Margo Price)
07. Tobacco Road (feat. Susanne Sundfør)
08. Penduli Pendulum (feat. Vashti Bunyan w/ Kaela Sinclair)
09. Jessye’ Lisabeth (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)
10. Refractions (feat. Marissa Nadler)
11. Courtyard (feat. Beth Orton)
12. Ode To Billie Joe (feat. Lucinda Williams)