First of all, even knowing nothing about it, Mercury Rev's new record, a track by track re-imagining of Bobbie Gentry's classic 1968 album The Delta Sweete Revisited is a gorgeous listening experience. Twelve tracks in all, each one fronted by a honeyed guest female vocalist and with an orchestral backdrop that positively drips with a sustained, updated evocation of the late Sixties and The Deep South.
It's not frankly, given its ingredients, a record that could easily fail. The original, from which it draws its inspiration, is after all one of its era's greatest albums. From one of the greatest female artistes of all, a singer still shrouded in mystique and romance, particularly since she withdrew from the public spotlight once and for all in the early Seventies.
Like countless others, I love Bobbie Gentry. Her records take me to a place that few others can, to a lost world. Mercury Rev are sensitive to this and Revisited is first and foremost an act of devotion, each track sculpted with care and attention, their labours dictated by service to the song being worked on.
That's as should be, but the project was only ever going to be as strong as the vocal performances it inspired. Taking on Gentry is no easy endeavour. In this respect Rev mostly strike gold as they managed to convince the very best to take a tilt at these songs. Norah Jones, Hope Sandoval, Laetitia Sadler, Margo Price, Susanne Sundfor, Phoebe Bridgers, Beth Orton and numerous others. It's a highly impressive roll call. And for the most point the re-creations hit their mark with closer, Lucinda Williams tilt at Gentry's best known song Ode to Billy Joe, one of the rare moments where their aim fails them.
Apart from this notable stumble almost no-one lets the side down and each track is draped in trappings that can be best described as Cosmic the term that came to be used to describe songs from the era that were nominally Country & Western but chose to aim for and arrive at the stars instead. Job well done.