Bobbie Gentry: The Delta Sweete/Local Gentry (Raven/EMI)

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Bobbie Gentry: Mornin' Glory
Bobbie Gentry: The Delta Sweete/Local Gentry (Raven/EMI)

Gentry is the US country singer best -- and probably only known by many -- for her 1967 hit Ode to Billie Joe, that song about Billie Joe McAllister tossing something off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

In terms of a mainstream career that was about it for Gentry who, after a few albums, married casino owner Bill Harrah in late 69 (she was 25, he was 58) and, although they divorced soon after, she never quite recovered her momentum.

She played in Vegas but by the late 70s had dropped out of sight.

Three years ago Raven, an independent Australian label, put out a terrific Gentry compilation An American Quilt 1967-74 which scooped up tracks from various albums -- but this single disc is the first time her two albums The Delta Sweete (a sort-of concept album about the South) and Local Gentry (which finds her in ballad mode and knocking off a few Lennon-McCartney standards) have been available.

What is clear is that Gentry was well ahead of her time: she is sassy in a sexy come-hither Southern manner, deals out some Southern swamp-funk like Tony Joe White, drawls in a manner halfway between a satisfied post-coital yawn and honey dripping down a hickory stick, and stakes out an area between kitschy and country that is mighty appealin'.

Things are more uneven on the second album, but The Delta Sweete is a treasure, if only for her oozing Southern charm and playfulness, and sultry sexuality on songs like Big Boss Man and Mornin' Glory.

Steamy stuff.

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