Lucinda Williams adds a touch of her native Louisiana grit to the Southern Gothic of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe,” in a version of the quintessentially mysterious tune that supplements Mercury Rev’s adventurous track-by-track re-imagining of Gentry’s largely forgotten 1968 sophomore album, The Delta Sweete.
Set within darkly atmospheric production elements, Williams’ vocal is tinged with pain and echoes with hints of anger and regret throughout, deepening the classic tune’s enigmatic nature. The song — and its phenomenal success on the pop chart at a time when the Beatles and other psychedelia were dominant — would continue to loom large as The Delta Sweete was released in February 1968.
Mixed with swampy country originals and choice covers, The Delta Sweete nevertheless failed to break into the upper half of the Billboard 200. Five decades later, Gentry’s album has more than earned back its reputation as a formidable follow-up to the Ode to Billie Joe LP, which famously knocked Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band out of the top spot upon its release in 1967.
Mercury Rev’s The Delta Sweete Revisited also features appearances by Margo Price, Norah Jones, and several other singers representing multiple genres. The album will be released on February 8th via Partisan Records/Bella Union and is now available for pre-order.