Reclusive “Ode to Billie Joe” and “Fancy” songwriter Bobbie Gentry continues to inspire a new generation of artists including indie rockers Mercury Rev, who have debuted their uniquely psychedelic jazz rendition of the Mississippi legend’s swampy “Okolona River Bottom Band,” with vocal assistance from Norah Jones.
“Okolona” is the opening track on Mercury Rev’s forthcoming LP, The Delta Sweete Revisited, the Buffalo, New York band’s track-by-track recreation of Gentry’s sophomore LP, released 50 years ago next month. Coming on the heels of the singer-songwriter’s groundbreaking debut, Ode to Billie Joe, which dislodged the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper‘s Lonely Hearts Club Band from the top spot on Billboard’s album chart in October 1967, The Delta Sweete was a hard sell – a semi-autobiographical concept album with segued tracks chronicling life in the Deep South. Although brilliantly executed, the record was saddled with following up a genre-crossing blockbuster project that made Gentry a household word. Sales were predictably dismal but the album’s reputation has only grown more solid in the decades since.
The Delta Sweet Revisited, which also features Margo Price contributing vocals on a version of the rousing gospel tune “Sermon,” will be released February 8th. The multi-genre cast of female singers also includes Lucinda Williams, Phoebe Bridgers, Vashti Bunyan, Rachel Goswell (Slowdive), Lætitia Sadier (Stereolab) and Kaela Sinclair (M83). In addition to Gentry’s now-legendary originals, the album features covers of the blues classic “Big Boss Man,” John D. Loudermilk’s “Tobacco Road,” the Doug Kershaw-penned “Louisiana Man” and Mose Allison’s jazzy rendition of the Bukka White Delta-blues tune “Parchman Farm.”
The new album closes with the added attraction of Lucinda Williams’ take on “Ode to Billie Joe,” not featured on the original collection. The Delta Sweete was among the albums included on the extraordinary eight-disc set The Girl From Chickasaw County, released last fall.
The Delta Sweete Revisited track listing:
- “Okolona River Bottom Band” (feat. Norah Jones)
- “Big Boss Man” (feat. Hope Sandoval)
- “Reunion” (feat. Rachel Goswell)
- “Parchman Farm” (feat. Carice van Houten)
- “Mornin’ Glory” (feat. Laetitia Sadier)
- “Sermon” (feat. Margo Price)
- “Tobacco Road” (feat. Susanne Sundfør)
- “Penduli Pendulum” (feat. Vashti Bunyan w/ Kaela Sinclair)
- “Jessye’ Lisabeth” (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)
- “Refractions” (feat. Marissa Nadler)
- “Courtyard” (feat. Beth Orton)
- “Ode to Billie Joe” (feat. Lucinda Williams)