Patchwork (1971) – Bobbie Gentry

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Bobbie Gentry packin’ up and checking out

Gentry’s first collection of entirely self-written material, the fittingly titled Patchwork is a piecemeal work of country, gospel and show-tune motifs, not to mention filmic interludes. Sounds exhausting, but as ever Gentry is more than up to task. No dark narratives of prostitutes or suicides this time, but still THAT voice. She colours each genre with her effortless soul inflections that manage simultaneously a vibe of lazy and alert. It would be difficult to say which of her voice or words her biggest asset is; she often gets full mileage out of both, and whilst the lyrics are lighter on Patchwork, they are still enjoyable. “You may know my body/But you cannot know my mind” quotes Gentry from the archetypal stripper with a heart “Belinda”. Caricatures or counter-stereotypes is what she has gone for here; the traveller in “Benjamin”, the misunderstood rebel in “Billy The Kid”, the spiritualist in “Jeremiah”, the fan in “Your Number One Fan”, and the lonely celebrity in “Lookin’ In”, to name most. The latter is perhaps the most interesting in as much as Gentry seems to be singing directly about herself for once (though one might suspect many of these character sketches are Gentry in lavish disguise), it is also the most melancholic of all of these portraits. Patchwork’s instrumentation is flawless, perhaps to the albums detriment; the more rough-and-ready Gentry can be missed, but the intricacy is enough to sustain interest and “Mean Stepmama Blues” does manage to marry cool with the breathless. Patchwork was Gentry’s last album and possibly her most definite statement of her highly textured brand of fractured Americana.

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2 comments

  1. Daniel

    I could not agree more. This superb set has the power and feel of a finely crafted Broadway Musical. The range of material is beyond stunning. A lost masterpiece that is finally finding an audience.

  2. Reblogged this on Willing Wheeling and commented:
    More on Bobbie Gentry.

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