Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Since Bettye LaVette's new album came out last week, she's been a media darling. It's about time. A soul and blues singer from Detroit, LaVette had some success in the 60s, but her career never really took off. In 2005, things started to turn around with the release of "I've Got My Own Hell to Raise." I first learned of her through Oxford American Magazine's Southern Music Issue (probably my favorite piece of mail each year!)
All of the recent, well-deserved attention is due to LaVette's latest album, "Interpretations: The British Songbook." LaVette chose 13 classic British rock songs and made them entirely her own.
Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," and The Animals' "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (their version was also a cover), all get the LaVette treatment. Her version of Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy" is the highlight.
The album is more of a somber affair than you might guess from a woman who's distinctive voice seems prime for a full-blown soul record. All the same, I've listened to it repeatedly and her ability to interpret instead of just cover these too familiar songs still surprises me. And then there's the voice and the phrasing!
Even Peter Sagal seems slightly awed by Bettye LaVette.