‘Gentle On My Mind’ was originally recorded by Glen Campbell in 1967, receiving 4 Grammys for Best Male Country & Western Solo Vocal Performance and Best Country & Western Recording for Campbell, and Best Folk Performance and Best Country & Western Song for the writer and original performer John Hartford. It is always hard to cover such a massive hit, and I was very interested to hear how The Band Perry would stamp their energetic style of country onto such a stripped back song.
I was concerned about how The Band Perry would cover this song since 3 of their 4 most recent singles, such as ‘Chainsaw’, ‘Better Dig Two’ and ‘Done’ have all been carried by Kimberly’s big vocal performances. In Glen Campbell’s original version of ‘Gentle On My Mind’, the energy in the song comes mainly from the string backing, heavy in banjo, with his understated vocals complementing the backing to give a laid-back style that is very intriguing, especially for me as a modern listener more used to being captured by a loud rock backing, or big crescendos from the vocalist.
To their immense credit, The Band Perry have adopted the original style and made it their own, with a lone banjo at the beginning being joined by other instruments added in layers, giving an unobtrusive and welcome crescendo carried by addition of instruments like a snare drum, steel guitar and acoustic guitar.
Whilst this backing isn’t dissimilar to that used in the original, the faster tempo and slightly breathless vocal performance from Kimberly distinguishes this song from the original and very much puts a ‘The Band Perry’ stamp on it, which is exactly what I think a good cover should do.
While this is a really good adaptation of the song, having listened to both the original and this cover I have got to say I prefer Campbell’s version. I think the faster, more energetic ‘The Band Perry’ version doesn’t fit the song as well as the beautiful and understated vocal performance by Glen Campbell. I’m not sure whether Kimberly’s higher and more frenetic female vocals contributes to this at all, but given that this song was covered as part of the soundtrack for the sombre biopic ‘Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me’, based on his final ‘Goodbye’ tour after his Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, I was expecting something a lot more sombre.
I would highly recommend giving this cover a listen, but I would also be interested to see what conclusions you draw based on the context and the original version of the song. On the whole, I think I would have enjoyed this song a lot more if I hadn’t listened to the original version.