Years ago, my buddy Alex and I were laughing about something, and he spouted off the beautiful words, “Bullshit Fantastica.” I think he said it. I might have said it, who knows, but I’ve certainly not forgotten it. I am reminded of it today as I ponder the conference I had yesterday afternoon Cocaine Baby’s Dad.
Now I really know where the Cocaine Baby get their unique talents for spinning yarns. Dad is the same way. One of our counselors was in the room, too, as she spends a good amount of time with Cocaine Baby and afterwards, we just had to have a short but intense session of eye rolling.
One of the great things about doing conferences is that it gives me a real glimpse into what the rest of my student’s lives are like. As you might imagine, some parents are great and invested in their kids and genuine. Others are, like I mentioned yesterday, just wonderful at telling me what they think I want to hear. Those parents…uggh. That’s all I have to say about that.
This week has been such a blur. I’ve put in some long hours at work and then came home and written about records. Rhondi and I have had some time together, but not much, and I feel like I haven’t gotten hardly any time with the kids. I’m looking forward to a nice weekend with my family and some friends.
I’m digging writing about the records, but it kinda feels like it has already become sort of formulaic. Maybe this is a good thing, but I’m not quite sure. I certainly hope people are enjoying it and even more so, I hope people are listening and enjoying the tunes.
Thanks to the awesome Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast, I got acquainted with Bobbie Gentry’s music and story. I had known her name since I was little because she was one of the original owners of the Phoenix Suns, but I was unaware of what an interesting career she had. She’s not dead or anything, but she’s stayed out of the spotlight for quite some time now.
The first record of hers I found at a local shop was The Delta Sweete. It’s so good. Good enough, I suppose, for Mercury Rev to re-record the record in 2019 with a bunch of really talented singers. I don’t to listen to that version just yet, though. I don’t want my brain to get tainted.
“Okolona River Bottom Band” is a favorite of mine to spin while DJ-ing. It’s just funky and weird and great. Gentry’s voice is so unique and straddles the line between country, pop, rock, and super sexy that you can kind of get lost in her songs. She’s a fantastic lyricist, too, and paints a vivid picture with her words, but she also wrote most of the music on this one, too.
I have both versions of this record, actually, because it was released as Tobacco Road, too, with a couple of changes to the track order and listing. I like the Delta Sweete version a bit better because it has the Mose Allison song, “Parchman Farm” on it. It’s another funky number that is, like all of them, fairly genre-defying.
One of the things that really made me curious about Bobbie Gentry after listening to Tyler Mahan Coe talk about her on the Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast was how she had this big hit with “Ode To Billie Joe” and was going to be the “next big thing” in country music, but then came out and did the records she wanted to do.
There is some very beautiful moments on The Delta Sweete, but also some straight up late 60s psychedelic weirdness, especially with how the songs are mixed. Listen on headphones and dig all the crazy things added to the mix. If anything, it’s just super interesting from that standpoint, even if you’re not really digging the songs.
I feel like Bobbie Gentry and Harry Nilsson were listening to some of the same stuff in those days. There is some crossover in sounds. There are parts of “Mornin’ Glory,” for example, that are very reminiscent of “Everybody’s Talkin’.” The Delta Sweete predates “Everybody’s Talkin’” by about a year, so maybe Nilsson was influenced by Gentry? Can’t ask either one. Nilsson is dead and Gentry has been living in seclusion for over 40 years.
The version of “Tobacco Road” on this one is pretty darn great, too. Like everything else she did, it’s funky and quite a bit more wistful than some of the other versions I’ve heard. (Side note: I’d still like to get my hands on Death In A Dress by Nova Boys which has a stellar version of “Tobacco Road.” I wonder if those guys were listening to Bobbie Gentry?”
As the record comes to a close, there is one song that I have tried to get into but just can’t and it’s “Jessye’ Lisabeth.” I don’t know what it is about the song, but it just doesn’t do it for me like the other songs. “Refractions,” though, and “Louisiana Man” are great. The latter is a Doug Kershaw cover and it has a slippy, fun beat that reminds me of what I like best about Gentry. She’s playful and sultry at the same time.
“Courtyard” completes The Delta Sweete. It is a tender one that takes me back to listening to the radio in the 70s as a kid. It is soft in all the right ways and brings on the nostalgic feelings I like to wrap myself up in from time to time. It reminds me of a time when there were still lots of orchards and vacant lots in Phoenix. It’s not what the song is about, but it makes me feel that way.
See you tomorrow.
We played Al's Bar a good handful of times. It was so great. I miss it.