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Soul - Released March 30, 2018 | Verve Records

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A great, revived soul voice. Politically-conscious songs from the Great American Songbook. This project harks back to the 1960s (and beyond), but it finds a strong echo in today's America, divided and rocked by President Trump... By dedicating the whole record to covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Bettye LaVette makes her voice heard, literally and figuratively. Produced by Steve Jordan, Things Have Changed which features, amongst others, Keith Richards and Trombone Shorty, alternates between warm, vintage soul, and funkier bursts of real rock'n'roll. Above all, the 72-year old soul artist from Michigan continues to prove that she has a lot of singing in her yet. LaVette made her definitive comeback as long ago as 2005, with the album I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise, itself also made up of covers, this time of songs from artists like Sinéad O'Connor, Lucinda Williams, Joan Armatrading, Rosanne Cash, Dolly Parton, Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple. Two years later she confirmed her vocal powers with The Scene Of The Crime which revisited Eddie Hinton, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, John Hiatt and Elton John. Coming, like all good things in spurts of threes, Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, from 2010, saw her taking on compositions by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Traffic, the Animals, Led Zep, George Harrison, Pink Floyd, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, the Moody Blues, Derek & The Dominos and the Who… This latest 2018 offering, though, stands head and shoulders above the others, thanks to the hair-raising sincerity that the singer brings to Dylan's repertoire. Great art. © Max Dembo/Qobuz
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R&B - Released September 25, 2012 | Anti - Epitaph

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R&B - Released September 21, 2012 | Anti - Epitaph

Distinctions Indispensable JAZZ NEWS
Bettye LaVette gets classified as an R&B singer, which she is, of course, but her newest album, the Craig Street-produced Thankful N' Thoughtful, finds her taking her blues, gospel, and soul-influenced singing style into deep, swampy, and edgy American roots territory, and she makes it all work with a sting and bite to her phrasing that ranks her as one of the best living soul singers. She gives Neil Young's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" a little jump of joy, moving the song away from being plaintive and lonely to something closer to anxious homesickness. Tom Waits' "Yesterday Is Here," complete with brass and reeds, loses some of its clang and becomes a poignant blues. The most stunning track here is LaVette's reinvention of the old folk song "Dirty Old Town," best known in the version by the Pogues. She fills it with disgust and ominous menace -- there's also a slower version of "Dirty Old Town" that lets a measure of sadness creep back in at the close of the album. Thankful N' Thoughtful is a solid outing from an outstanding singer who knows how to growl, croon, grumble, praise, and jump for joy with her vocal phrasing -- whatever makes the song live and breathe. She is still a marvel. ~ Steve Leggett
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R&B - Released September 24, 2012 | Anti - Epitaph

Distinctions Indispensable JAZZ NEWS
Bettye LaVette gets classified as an R&B singer, which she is, of course, but her newest album, the Craig Street-produced Thankful N' Thoughtful, finds her taking her blues, gospel, and soul-influenced singing style into deep, swampy, and edgy American roots territory, and she makes it all work with a sting and bite to her phrasing that ranks her as one of the best living soul singers. She gives Neil Young's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" a little jump of joy, moving the song away from being plaintive and lonely to something closer to anxious homesickness. Tom Waits' "Yesterday Is Here," complete with brass and reeds, loses some of its clang and becomes a poignant blues. The most stunning track here is LaVette's reinvention of the old folk song "Dirty Old Town," best known in the version by the Pogues. She fills it with disgust and ominous menace -- there's also a slower version of "Dirty Old Town" that lets a measure of sadness creep back in at the close of the album. Thankful N' Thoughtful is a solid outing from an outstanding singer who knows how to growl, croon, grumble, praise, and jump for joy with her vocal phrasing -- whatever makes the song live and breathe. She is still a marvel. ~ Steve Leggett
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Rock - Released May 21, 2010 | Anti - Epitaph

At first glance, Bettye LaVette's 2010 album Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, would appear to be just another collection of covers. But “interpretations” is the key word here, because LaVette, a Detroit soul veteran and a contemporary of more famous peers like Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson, is no run-of-the-mill singer, and she takes these classic British Invasion tracks and gives them new dimension, making them in every sense and nuance her own. That’s not an easy task, since every one of these tracks is a well-known song, seemingly immutable in the original version, but amazingly, LaVette steals each and every one of them. John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “The Word,” which leads things off, for instance, becomes the gospel stomper the Beatles always intended it to be, while Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy” becomes a swampy, haunting, and profoundly wise blues song in LaVette’s capable hands. And she’s not afraid to make changes to these classics, either, updating the Rolling Stones’ “Salt of the Earth” to include references to the HIV epidemic. She rearranges things in song after song here, moving choruses, swapping out verses, all in the name of claiming the song and placing it in new emotional territory. The idea for this album came after she performed the Who’s “Love Reign O’Er Me” in 2008 at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony for the band, and her version that night (it is included here as an extended bonus track) is nothing less than stunning, pulling a depth of emotion from the song that the Who could only dream of, as fine as the band’s original version was. Now in her mid-sixties, LaVette is singing better than ever, and if she isn’t a household name, she ought to be. This is a remarkable album because this lady is a remarkable singer -- that’s the bottom line. ~ Steve Leggett
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Soul - Released March 30, 2018 | Verve Records

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R&B - Released January 29, 2008 | Anti - Epitaph

What can be said about Bettye LaVette that hasn't already been said? Like James Carr before her, LaVette has toiled behind the smoke and glitz of the limelight for decades. Her last regular recording contract was in the 1980s, and she hasn't cracked the R&B Top 20 in over three decades. The 21st century has seen LaVette's activity increase, but it is this recording, produced by Joe Henry -- who did wonders with Solomon Burke -- that once more unveils to a large audience LaVette's singular gifts as a singer. She's backed here by a wondrous slate of musicians including bassists Dave Pilch (acoustic, stand-up) and Paul Bryan (electric), Lisa Coleman on organ and piano, and guitarists Chris Bruce and Doyle Bramhall II. I've Got My Own Hell to Raise begins innocently enough with an a cappella read of Sinéad O'Connor's "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got," radically reinterpreting the song as a gospel number. It's chilling. But it kicks right into a hard soul version of Lucinda Williams "Joy," and careens into another hard soul, straight-from-the-gut interpretation of Joan Armatrading's "Down to Zero." One will be tempted to take the disc off right here; these three cuts are enough to take the listener into the small, unspeakable spaces in the mind and large terrains of the heart where emotion becomes nearly overwhelming. But there's so much more, like the hard, guitar-drenched, Southern-fried funk roiling boil of Rosanne Cash's "On the Surface"; the dark, edgy groove of Dolly Parton's "Little Sparrow"; the gritty, rusty-edged knife funk of "Only Time Will Tell Me," and the glorious closer, a radically re-imagined take on Fiona Apple's "Sleep to Dream," with its deep tom toms, loose-wristed snare, and wah-wahed guitars. LaVette is fortunate to have found a producer with Henry's guts, vision, and sensitivity. He gets a lot of credit here, not only for presenting LaVette in a stripped down and directly emotive context, but also for his arrangements of these songs that feel almost like cinema in their dynamic and dramatic settings. In each case, the constructive reworking of these cuts from the ground up -- everything begins with rhythm here -- finding and embracing the angularity hidden in them and putting them in front of a singer who can roll and shapeshift while remaining true to herself is simply wondrous. Hopefully, the attention this garners will lead to more than a one-off collaboration between Henry and Lavette. ~ Thom Jurek
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R&B - Released September 25, 2007 | Anti - Epitaph

On the surface, it may seem that pairing soul survivor Bettye LaVette with Southern rockers the Drive-By Truckers is a match made in hell, and no one could be blamed for that assumption. Since LaVette singed to Anti for 2005's I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, an album produced by Joe Henry that brought her back into the public eye after more than 30 years (she did record and continued to sing, and was in no way retired), the stakes were higher for her return effort. Label president Andy Kaulkin is a cagey guy who understands that milking a successful formula isn't the way to make records, nor is it any way for an artist of LaVette's stature to be treated -- especially when she's in the prime of her recording life. He suggested the collaboration to the Truckers' Patterson Hood. Hood is from Alabama, the home of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, and his father was co-owner and a session bassist. LaVette recorded what was supposed to be her breakthrough album at Muscle Shoals' Fame Studios for Atlantic (Hood's father David, along with Spooner Oldham, played on the sessions for that disc). But the finished record, Child of the Seventies (and the rest of its studio sessions), sat in the vault for 30 years before being issued in Europe and finally released stateside by Rhino Handmade in 2005 -- after she'd won a W.C. Handy Award for Woman Like Me on Blues Express (her actual return to recording in America after 20 years) in 2003, and her critically acclaimed Anti debut that reached an even bigger audience. LaVette agreed to return to Fame some 35 years later, the studio where Scene of the Crime was recorded. The set is co-produced by David Barbe, Patterson Hood, and LaVette. Along with the Drive-By Truckers (Hood, Mike Colley, Shonna Tucker, and Brad Morgan), special guests include Spooner Oldham on Wurlitzer and piano throughout, David Hood on bass on three cuts, Kelvin Holly (a member of Little Richard's band the Decoys), steel guitarist John Neff, and Sum Haque on piano for a couple of numbers. These ten tracks -- all but one are covers, as LaVette considers herself in the proper soul tradition as an interpreter, not a songwriter -- are gritty, loud, raw, and drenched in Southern soul, blues, and gospel-tinged R&B. From the opening notes of "I Still Want to Be Your Baby (Take Me Like I Am)" -- written by another genius chewed up and spat out by the music biz, the late Eddie Hinton -- it becomes obvious why this unlikely pairing was a match made in roadhouse heaven. Roiling and steamy from the word go, the guitars are held in check with a riff that sounds like it could have come from Junior Kimbrough's juke joint over Mississippi way. Oldham's Wurlitzer, the cracking snare, a bottom-heavy bassline -- that has not an iota of rubber in it -- and those distorted intertwining six-strings are still barely enough to hold the sheer wall-busting voice of LaVette. She doesn't have to stretch to get above them (and many of these tracks are comprised of "scratch," or first-take vocals). It comes pouring out of her. She's a disciplined singer who understands tension and dynamic and where in her belly to get the power from. Her reading of Frankie Miller's "Jealousy" is all simmering and scorching soul; the Wurlitzer and rim-clicking snare are her allies here in delivering the lyric. The bassline provides a rock for the trio to jump off and the guitars just color the sound purple. She has all the advice of a strict maternal figure who has learned from hard experience. When the track begins to cut loose of its moorings, she simply gets right on top of the mix and lets her voice fall over it. Whew! As fine as these cuts are -- and they are all solid, without a weak one in the bunch -- there are three clear head-and-shoulders winners. The first is a devastating and now definitive reading of Willie Nelson's "Somebody Pick Up My Pieces" that transcends its country roots and becomes a soul song in the classic Otis Redding tradition. It's draped in sorrow, which Neff's pedal steel underscores in every line. The bassline carries the only support in the mix and LaVette allows everything to come through her body and voice: it's the sound of every heart in the world breaking, straining for control for even one moment, and then realizing it's futile. Next is the most incredible reading of Elton John's "Talking Old Soldiers," a sultry, sad ballad that is completely reinvented here. John doesn't own it anymore, even if he and Bernie Taupin did write it. The emptiness of her surroundings surrounds the protagonist, and there is nothing but vastness and the curse of memory and the frailty of age to express the ultimate truth of life's only promise: the graveyard. But it's not all sorrow and heartache. "Before the Money Came (The Battle of Bettye Lavette)," written by Hood and the singer, is the triumphant survivor's tale it sounds like. The hardcore bar band nature of the Truckers with Oldham comes choogling, and LaVette's down with this kind of rock & roll -- she was singing the rhythm and blues version long before all but Oldham were even born. And there's nothing corny, nostalgic, or novelty about this blues. This is not a song about bragging rights, but the redemptive voice of a champion -- one who has paid more dues than most people can fathom let alone perceive, and has not only lived to tell about it but has risen above it all without ever once surrendering. Henry's production job with LaVette was brilliant. He understood her strengths better than the staff producers at Atlantic did and found a sympathetic band that could hang with her incredible ability. But Scene of the Crime, though far more basic, was the album she was born to make. It gets better with each listen, and stands so far outside the realm of anything her better-known peers are doing today that it's almost scary. They are not even in her league -- any of them. And while one can only hope she makes records for a long time to come (she's in her early sixties and in fantastic health), if she never made another one, listeners would have the ultimate gift here. This CD was nominated for a Grammy award in 2007 for Best Contemporary Blues Album. ~ Thom Jurek
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Soul - Released February 9, 2006 | Rhino Atlantic

Exemplifying that it is truly "better late than never," it has taken over 30 years to finally get soul diva Bettye LaVette's oft-rumored Child of the Seventies out to eager ears. Granted, much of the material was released as Souvenirs on the French indie Art & Soul label in 2000. However, this CD sounds markedly better and the project is served up in its entirety alongside four 45s that the artist recorded during two distinctly different periods of her career. She was credited as "Betty LaVett" in 1962 when "My Man -- He's a Lovin' Man" b/w "Shut Your Mouth," and (the following year) "You'll Never Change" b/w "Here I Am" were licensed and distributed internationally by Atlantic Records, with the former title making it all the way to a very respectable number seven on the R&B charts. LaVette joined forces with producer Brad Shapiro, and in late 1972 found herself signed to the Atlantic Records spinoff Atco, recording what should have been her great breakthrough album at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. Yet, when all was said and done, only her cover of Neil Young's " Heart of Gold" b/w "You'll Wake Up Wiser," which was followed several months later by "Your Turn to Cry" b/w "Soul Tambourine," would make it onto store shelves. Originally planned for inclusion on Child of the Seventies, for years the latter two songs remained the album's only remnants; finally, they are presented in their original context as well as in separate mono mixes. Had wiser heads prevailed, Child of the Seventies may have meant Bettye LaVette's name would be as universally acclaimed by R&B lovers as that of, say, Aretha Franklin. ~ Lindsay Planer
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R&B - Released June 12, 2009 | Anti - Epitaph

R&B - Released August 21, 2012 | Anti - Epitaph

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Soul - Released August 10, 2010 | Rhino Atlantic

R&B - Released September 11, 2012 | Anti - Epitaph

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Soul - Released February 15, 2010 | Rhino Atlantic

R&B - Released June 26, 2012 | Anti - Epitaph

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Rock - Released March 9, 2018 | Verve Records

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Film Soundtracks - Released January 1, 2013 | Low Winter Sun

R&B - Released | CHERRY RED

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Bettye LaVette doesn't write her own songs, but she doesn't have to -- by the time she's finished singing a tune, LaVette has turned it into something entirely her own, an emotional statement that's original and complete. Since LaVette reminded American listeners that she was still working at the top of her game with the 2003 live set A Woman Like Me, she's been releasing a steady stream of new albums confirming her status as one of the strongest and most individual interpretive vocalists in the 21st century. LaVette's first studio album after A Woman Like Me was the outstanding I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, produced by Joe Henry, and for 2014's Worthy, LaVette has teamed up again with Henry and several of the same musicians who played on those sessions. Henry is a producer whose approach is less about studio technique and more about setting a mood and letting artists go where they will, and LaVette is the sort of artist who responds best to this treatment; on Worthy, LaVette sings with strength and passion, but she understands dynamics, knowing when to go full-out and when to rein herself in, and her tough but thoughtful approach to the material is powerfully effective and full of keen emotional intelligence and her soulful, sweet and sour voice. Worthy finds LaVette covering songs by the Beatles ("Wait"), the Rolling Stones ("Complicated"), Bob Dylan ("Unbelievable"), and Beth Nielsen Chapman (the title cut), but if LaVette doesn't necessarily make you forget the originals, each time she takes them to a place that's clearly of her own making. LaVette discovers something fresh and deeply personal in every number here, and the backing band on these sessions (including Doyle Bramhall II on guitar, Chris Bruce on bass, and Patrick Warren on keyboards) works with her beautifully, with a give and take that's a master class in how to accompany a vocalist. Worthy is another impressive release from an outstanding singer, and if it follows the pattern of some of her recent albums, nothing here sounds rote; this is the sound of an artist doing what she does best, and she is far more than worthy of this great music. ~ Mark Deming

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