I first encountered the country-ish singer Bobbie Gentry when listening to a collection of Glen Campbell tunes; the two put out a duet album together in 1968. Bobbie Gentry put out her first album in 1967, and stopped recording in 1971, but she sang some great songs in those four quick years. She had a hit on her debut with “Ode To Billie Joe” (here’s a nice cover of that song), but it’s 1969’s Touch ‘Em With Love where she really shines. Touch ‘Em straddles the line between country, soul, blues, and pop, a sweet spot that several artists explored with success in 1969, including Elvis Presley, the Band, and Dusty Springfield. The title track employs a rollicking guitar lead that could be on Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, but the rest is pure southern soul, with a piano that sounds a bit like Otis Redding’s “Hard To Handle,” and backing vocalists that come off like a jumpier version of Aretha’s beloved backing vocalists, the Sweet Inspirations.
A decked-out Gentry performs the song live below.