From the first strums on what sounds like a dime store student guitar and the odd orchestral backing, Bobbie Gentry‘s Ode to Billie Joe is clearly in a different sort of universe. Best known for the title track, which tells the story of young lovers and suicide from the Tallahatchie Bridge, Ode to Billy Joe is as complex as the subject matter suggests.
Country Soul is full of sultry songstresses with smoky voices. Dusty Springfield is probably best known, and her “Son of a Preacher Man” is probably the finest example of a genre all but forgotten today. Where the Mandrel Sisters, Dolly Parton and others opted for the lure of pop audiences that eventually brought us to the sorry reality of Rascal Flatts, Springfield and Gentry (along with Jeannie C. Riley of “Harper Valley PTA” fame) skipped the white bread for the grits. The late 60s and very early 70s produced a fantastic crop of Country Soul that sounds as unusual and compelling as ever. That it did not become the dominate cross-over sub-genre is too bad for all of us.