Due to her sudden departure from the music business in the ’80s, unheard material from singer-songwriter Bobbie Gentry seemed out of the question for the longest time. That changes on Sept. 21 with the U.K. release of The Girl From Chickasaw County, an 8-CD box set that pairs her seven studio albums with demos, outtakes, unreleased songs and a whole disc of Live at the BBC sessions.
Across six solo LPs on Capitol Records and a duets album with Glen Campbell, her Mississippi Delta charm and God-given talents introduced a crossover audience to future Reba McEntire hit “Fancy” and the mystery of what exactly got chucked off the Tallahatchie Bridge in “Ode to Billie Joe”–a song that truly was bigger than the Beatles in its time. After all, the multi-Grammy-winning album it’s from knocked Sgt. Pepper’s off the No. 1 spot on the pop charts.
Each of her albums–Ode to Billie Joe, The Delta Sweete, Local Gentry, Bobbie Gentry & Glen Campbell, Touch ‘Em With Love, Fancy and Patchwork–is included and feature bonus tracks. Among this additional material are foreign language takes (the Italian “La Siepe,” British chart-topper “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” in Spanish and a Japanese version of the Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill”), alternate versions of various album cuts (the acoustic take of “Belinda” stands out as a potential sleeper), unheard cover songs (Dallas Frazier’s “Conspiracy of Homer Jones” and Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel”) and, hallelujah!, unreleased originals with such titles as “Circle Round the Sun” and “I Didn’t Know.” Hopefully, the accompanying 84-page book explains more about these 75 unearthed recordings, including tracks from an abandoned jazz album.
The eighth disc expands this past spring’s Record Store Day exclusive release of BBC sessions from ’68 and ’69, featuring a memorable live medley of “Niki-Hoeky” and “Barefootin’.” Additional tracks from across the pond include a cover of the Jerry Jeff Walker-penned Nitty Gritty Dirt Band classic “Mr. Bojangles” and an extended arrangement of “Your Number One Fan” that’s the closest thing some fans will get to experiencing Gentry’s extravagant Las Vegas stage show.
There’s no word yet on a U.S. release date. For a complete track listing, check out Gentry’s website.