Country Music People March 2019 - Page 41

some fans and a fair bit of critical praise. Of the twelve songs on the Mercury Rev album eight are written by Bobbie Gentry. The first song, Okolona River Bottom Band, had a swamp-jazz arrangement in 1968. Now it has a more subdued, slightly psychedelic arrangement. The vocal by jazz singer Norah Jones is spot- on. Here it builds to a shimmering piano section. Both the old and new versions are quite different. Both work very well. The choice of singers on this new release is near to perfection. On Big Boss Man we get the wonderful voice of Hope Sandoval. She is best known as a member of the alt. Rock band Mazzy Star. On Big Boss Man Sandoval sounds at home delivering an intimate, sultry vocal. The backing track features a superb steel guitar and lots of atmosphere, and is more country than the 1968 version. The elegant new version of Mornin’ Glory features French singer Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab) who sounds like Nico with a folky- psychedelic backing track. The new arrangement is similar to the 1968 version. Margo Price pops up to sing Sermon. The original Bobbie Gentry version had a jazz-gospel feel. Now Margo Price delivers a soulful country vocal married to a swirling backing track. The piano at the end of the song is a nice surprise. Tobacco Road was first recorded by John D. Loudermilk, then British band The Nashville Teens had a hit with it in the UK and America. Bobbie Gentry’s version lacked the brute power of The Nashville Teens. Mercury Rev’s version however, hits the target. The vocal is by Susanne Sundfor. Here the power returns! A foot-tapping delight. It sounds a bit like an old Mitch Rider track. British folky Vashti Bunyan is featured with Kaela Sinclair on the quality re-make of, Penduli Pendulum. The 1968 version sounds a bit limp when compared to the atmospheric new take. The singers on the new version sound more inspired by the song and the new arrangement gives it an edge as well. Ode To Billie Joe was written by Bobbie Gentry. It was released in 1967 and was a number one hit in America and did well in several other countries. Here it has a superb vocal from Lucinda Williams who ‘attacks’ the song with real passion. As the backing track builds it adds atmosphere and makes this a stunning cover version. Mercury Rev and friends have done a superb job of re-creating Bobbie Gentry’s 1960s album. The singer for each song has been selected with great care and every singer produces a high quality vocal. The almost dream-like backing tracks by Mercury Rev are a wonder to hear. This is one of those rare moments where the cover versions are superior to the originals. It seems unlikely that Mercury Rev will ever be in CMP again, however, they deserve this shimmering moment in the bright sunshine. What an album! Paul Riley MARCH 2019 - cmp 41