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Published: 2012/10/11
by Brian Robbins

Bettye LaVette
Thankful N' Thoughtful

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In a world where there’s no justice at all, the world would never have taken notice of the talent of Bettye LaVette. The fact that she’d been keeping it real for over four decades when The Scene Of The Crime (backed by the Drive-By Truckers) spun peoples’ heads around in 2007 is proof that sometimes justice is verrrrrrrry slow in coming.

Dues-paying class act that she is, LaVette has taken it all in stride, put her head down, and kept on doing what she’s always done: sing her heart out. 2010’s Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook did just what its title proclaimed; LaVette took some classics by the hand and made them hers in a most believable manner. Thankful ‘N Thoughtful continues along that same path.

LaVette is blessed with the ability to totally change a song’s delivery, putting a different spin on its mood while still being true to the bottom line. Is Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” still crazy in her hands? Uh-huh – only the slow simmer of her delivery makes it sound far more … dangerous than the original. Her take on Mr. Dylan’s “Everything Is Broken” slows down the pace and funks things up – the disgust over the state of the world is still there, but LaVette still sounds strong and sultry in the face of it all. The title track – originally sung by Sly And The Family Stone – remains funky, but there’s also a drop of sultry sweat running down its neck. And it’s all the more real because of it.

On her cover of Tom Waits’ “Yesterday Is Here” LaVette delivers her story right up in the forefront with a slow-grind New Orleans beat in the background and a way-cool ragtime piano. Speaking of piano, the keys take the place of the snapping, biting guitars we all know on Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”, combining with LaVette’s listen-here vocal to offer more of a headshake than hands thrown up in the air. And look – some Savoy Brown! (“I’m Tired” sounds anything but.)

All in all, LaVette continues to prove herself to be the queen of more than simple reinterpretation – she’s a total soul dowser when it comes to mining the pure emotions of others’ songs.

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