Delta force

Eight-disc set of the coun­try-soul enigma’s Capi­tol record­ings, plus co­pi­ous ex­tras. By An­drew Male.

Mojo (UK) - - Filter Reissues -

Bob­bie Gen­try The Girl From Chick­a­saw County BOB­BIE GEN­TRY gave her fi­nal live per­for­mance, at the Sa­hara ho­tel in Las Ve­gas, in Septem­ber 1980. Her last pub­lic ap­pear­ance came two years later, at the Coun­try Mu­sic Awards in April 1982. There was no of­fi­cial ‘re­tire­ment’ no­tice. She just walked away. She was 40 years old. In the 36 years since, Gen­try has recorded no mu­sic and played no con­certs, liv­ing a quiet life in Mem­phis, with no in­ter­est what­so­ever in dis­cussing her pre­vi­ous ca­reer. Yet, while Bob­bie Gen­try main­tains si­lence, her mu­sic re­fuses to. Long af­ter her fi­nal stu­dio LP, 1971’s Patch­work, faded from view, Gen­try’s name was kept alive by her de­but sin­gle, Ode To Bil­lie Joe. Recorded af­ter sign­ing to Capi­tol in 1967, this be­witch­ing, cin­e­matic tale of two Delta teenagers’ dark se­cret, sung in a huskily con­ver­sa­tional South­ern drawl, sold 750,000 copies in its first week of re­lease, and kept her name alive as her ca­reer was for­got­ten; suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions still won­der­ing just what Bil­lie Joe McAl­lis­ter threw off the Tal­la­hatchie Bridge. The Gen­try re­nais­sance that’s led us to this eight-disc com­pi­la­tion ar­guably be­gan with the mid-’90s easy lis­ten­ing re­vival, when an au­di­ence drawn to Gen­try’s kitsch LP sleeves and swoon­ing Bacharach cov­ers also dis­cov­ered her sul­try swamp rock­ers along­side be­guil­ing po­etic bal­lads about “tear-sor­rowed” women, that un­rav­elled like gothic rid­dles. These mys­te­ri­ous self-penned para­bles ran across all seven of her stu­dio al­bums, hark­ing back to that orig­i­nal spec­tral hit, and shin­ing a dark light on the other Bob­bie Gen­try, one Roberta Streeter, born into a dirt-poor bro­ken fam­ily in Chick­a­saw County, Mis­sis­sippi, on July 27, 1942. Her un­doubted mas­ter­piece re­mains 1968’s The Delta Sweete, a semi­au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal South­ern con­cept al­bum split between rowdy gospel-soul groovers and exquisitely sad cham­ber pop de­tail­ing cap­tive women’s haunted dreams. That’s closely fol­lowed by 1970’s Fancy – sen­su­ous blue-eyed soul, cut with Mus­cle Shoals maven Rick Hall – and her fi­nal stu­dio LP, Patch­work, which com­prises Nils­son-es­que char­ac­ter sketches, punc­tu­ated by wist­ful, au­tum­nal in­tro­spec­tion. Com­pro­mised by a rigid tour­ing sched­ule and a la­bel ex­pect­ing more Bil­lie Joe-style chart smashes, other al­bums were hob­bled by in­sub­stan­tial cov­ers, most specif­i­cally, her 1968 Glen Camp­bell duets long-player, but each con­tained com­po­si­tions of a unique eerie bril­liance, from de­but LP stand­out, I Saw An Angel Die, to Lo­cal Gen­try’s shim­mer­ing Recol­lec­tion – a pris­matic She’s Leav­ing Home about a young girl con­fronting death for the first time. All are rea­son to in­vest in this ret­ro­spec­tive, but the real clincher is the rare and un­re­leased record­ings. Backed by musical di­rec­tor John Cameron, the Live At The BBC disc (only pre­vi­ously avail­able as a 2018 RSD LP) show­cases Gen­try at her soul­ful best; the up­beat tracks ooz­ing Delta sen­su­al­ity, the slower num­bers heavy with an in­ti­mate melan­choly. The other ex­tras range from raw acous­tic demos to steamy cov­ers of Mose Al­li­son’s The Sev­enth Son and Blood, Sweat & Tears’ Spin­ning Wheel, plus Bob­bie singing in Ital­ian, Ja­panese and Span­ish. How­ever, the real find is eight mourn­ful, in­ti­mate tracks from an aban­doned, self-pro­duced jazz ses­sion, planned as a fol­low-up to 1968’s poor-sell­ing Lo­cal Gen­try. The songs range from the chill­ing (Irv­ing Ber­lin’s Sup­per Time) to the be­guil­ing (a crest­fallen take on Bacharach & David’s This Guy’s In Love With You), and sug­gest Gen­try’s ca­reer might have taken an en­tirely dif­fer­ent path. Whether it would have con­tin­ued, we’ll never know. Maybe she would have still found her­self “packin’ up” and “check­ing out”, as she sings on the painfully au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal Lookin’ In, the clos­ing track on her fi­nal LP. As with ev­ery­thing con­nected with Bob­bie Gen­try, what re­mains is the mys­tery.

Sul­try and be­guil­ing: Bob­bie Gen­try in Manch­ester Square, Lon­don, 1969.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.