Bobbie Gentry

Local Gentry

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Local Gentry is an exquisitely wrought collection of character studies steeped in the myth and lore of Southern culture -- from the funeral parlor director portrayed in "Casket Vignette" to the titular "Ace Insurance Man," Bobbie Gentry etches a series of revealing, well-observed narratives populated by folks both larger-than-life and small-time, adding up to something not unlike a country-pop Spoon River Anthology. A subtle, primarily acoustic effort, the record's sound and sensibility are steeped in Gentry's Mississippi upbringing, but despite the music's warmth and humanity, the effect is neither nostalgic nor saccharine -- instead, Gentry wistfully and wryly evokes a colorful rural culture populated by soldiers, widows, and traveling medicine shows. The five original compositions here rank among her most literate and personal, while covers like the Beatles' "Fool on the Hill" and "Eleanor Rigby" add to the roll call of misfits, eccentrics, and beautiful losers. Like all of Gentry's efforts, it's ripe for reissue.

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