Click on the song titles above for lyrics and songwriting credits
The fittingly titled Patchwork is a brilliantly diverse collection of short stories in song that effortlessly cover country, pop, soul, folk, gospel, blues and show-tune motifs, all stitched together with filmic interludes to make a cohesive whole. Bobbie colours each genre with her distinctive vocal inflections that simultaneously manage that vibe of laziness and alert perception that is uniquely hers. Patchwork was in-fact Bobbie’s first collection of entirely self-written and produced material. The album’s instrumentation is flawless: but with each successive LP, her sound became more lush and produced meaning the more rough-and-ready Gentry can sometimes be missed.
Humour has always been a part of Bobbie’s albums and this is particularly true of Patchwork where the lyrics are generally lighter, making this record great fun. Bobbie’s songwriting is also less regional, sometimes sounding closer to the kind of jaunty, slyly tongue-in-cheek observational style of singer/songwriters like Harry Nilsson or Randy Newman, and Somebody Like Me sounds a bit like the Fifth Dimension or even Martha and the Vandellas. There doesn’t seem to be an overriding lyrical concept to the album, other than the songs being character sketches – something of a Gentry specialty by this point. “You may know my body/But you cannot know my mind” says the stripper with a heart Belinda-these are archetypal characters or counter-stereotypes that we are meeting here; the traveler 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 intriguing in as much as Bobbie 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, “I’m packing up and Checking out” she tells us in the closing song of her final album, “I Just can’t bring myself to compromise” making it irresistible not to feel the lyrics as some sort of commentary on Bobbies own decision to leave her recording career behind, for the “bright spotlights” of Las Vegas, before disappearing all together.
Simply put, Patchwork is Bobbie Gentry at the peak of her powers, and at a distance of over forty years it still seems mysterious that this would be her last LP, for she obviously had much left to give, Patchwork being the richest, most definite statement of her fractured brand of Americana that she had made to date.
In 2007 a cd compilation called The Best Of The Capital Years contained a couple of previously unreleased recordings, One of these was a Bobbie original recorded during the Patchwork sessions called Smoke.