Trying To Get To You

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Battle Of Bettye LaVette

I'm listening to an advance copy of Bettye LaVette's new album, The Scene Of The Crime, due out on September 25 on Anti. With the Drive By Truckers in tow as her backing band, the album is a monument to a proud and defiant woman’s commitment to her music, and her persistence in finding an audience for it, even when there was little evidence she would succeed in her quest. What you hear here is the singing of a warrior – a little battle scarred, but with an unbreakable spirit.

The sound of the album is soul with plenty of southern rock (i.e., great guitar). It's hearkens to the glory days of the Muscle Shoals sound of the 60’s and 70’s, but it’s firmly rooted in the here and now, without the weight of nostalgia. And in a way, the album is an attempt on LaVette's part to correct the past, not return to it; the "crime" that she refers to in the album's title is a reference to Atlantic's shelving of her 1972 classic, Child Of The Seventies.

LaVette is a self-described “interpreter” of songs (she doesn’t write), and in her cover of Elton John’s “Talking Old Soldiers,” you can hear the influence of another great interpreter, Frank Sinatra ("One For My Baby"). But ironically, one of the most affecting songs on the album is, “Before The Money Came (The Battle of Bettye LaVette) a song she co-wrote with Trucker, Patterson Hood, in which the measure of this very fierce woman’s life becomes vivid and downright moving.

Bettye LaVette will be playing at the Highline Ballroom on Monday, September 24. You can count on me being there.

Download: "Before The Money Came (The Battle Of Bettye LaVette)"
Download: "Talking Old Soldiers"

Pre-Order Scene Of The Crime at Amazon


Anonymous said...

I saw her on when she played the Knitting Factory for her last record. She encored with an acappella version of "I do not want what I have not got". You could hear a pin drop in the room & just thinking about it now sends a shiver up my spine. It was testament to the power of her performance and her voice.

Anonymous said...

I was at the Knitting Factory that night and I know that Bettye LaVette was not feeling well that evening. It was bitter cold, snowy and slippery outside. You would never have known that she was ill...she hit the stage with a vengeance! The place was packed, balcony and main floor. They took all the seats out to make more room for the capacity crowd.

LaVette's performance was so strong, it ended up in the Daily News' "top ten "live" shows of the year."

I've heard the new "Scene...Crimes" CD and I think it's going to be bigger than and better received than "...Hell To Raise." "Talking Old Soldiers" will become historic; all of Bettye's life experience, her years on Broadway and her basic singing talent went into transforming Elton John's composition into a moving dramatic play. People will recognize the message, especially those who have lost really good friends.

The ballads are poignant and the uptemo numbers make you want to shake your booty. And, yes, "When The Money Came" is autobiographical. I once asked Bettye to name the one male singer she would like to have recorded with. Without hesitation, she said, "David Ruffin."

Anonymous said...

Do you remember the opening act?