Friday, November 02, 2007

"I Got a Lot to Say!"

sings Bettye LaVette in a song she co-composed, "Before the Money Came". She revisits Muscle Shoals in this early 2007 release, Scene of the Crime, co-produced by David Barbe, Patterson Hood, and Ms. LaVette. Any name ring a bell? That's right Drive By Truckers fans (and, yes, Whisky Prajer, I have seen, well actually, heard the light and I count myself among those fans), it's produced by Mr. Hood from the DBT. Turns out his dad is David Hood of the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Full circles all around.

Bettye LaVette's collaboration with the Drive By Truckers is a gem, possibly my favorite recording issued this year. Opening up with Eddie Hinton's "I Still Want to be Your Baby (Take Me Like I Am)", she belts out:
"I've been this way too long to change now.
You're going to have to take me like I am,
but you know I'm still your baby.
"

She follows that with "Choices", wherein,
"I've had choices since the day I was born.
There were voices that told me right form wrong.
If I only listened, I wouldn't be here today
living with the choices I made.
"

The divine Ms. LaVette takes on Frankie Miller's "Jealousy" and Elton Johns' "Talking Old Soldiers" and does the same thing to them that she did in her 2005 Anti Records album, I've Got my Own Hell to Raise. She makes the songs her own.

Her two recent albums strike me the same way as when Charles Walker released Number by Heart back in 2003. Like Walker, Ms. LaVette was recording back in the late '50's and early '60's and then slipped away. In "Before the Money Came (The Battle of Bettye LaVette)", a song on The Scene of the Crime, she goes through the history of her rise, fall, and return. The lost years only improved the bite. Her renditions of the songs are are brittle emotional outpourings, with the weight of the lost 40 or so years riding heavy with the might-have-beens. I thought I've heard these songs before, but Ms. LaVette demonstrates otherwise. Her stylings bear repeating. The Drive By Truckers provide an excellent background for her vocal escapades. They're out front in spots of some songs but generally they sit back and provide the strong base for her exposition.
As with other Anti cd's, such as Joe Henry's Civilians, Galactic's From the Corner to the Block, Rogue's Gallery compilation, DeVotchKa's How It Ends, and Mavis Staples' We'll Never Turn Back, the production and crystal clear recording is excellent. One would be tempted to buy an Anti CD without having heard it before strictly based on the care and expertise they take with their artists.

If you haven't heard Bettye LaVette's recent recordings, I strongly encourage a purchase of either one. If you're a Drive By Trucker fan, The Scene of the Crime will be an ear-opener. I hope this collaboration was not the last.

Addendum: Philly Inq's Nick Cristiano reviews Bettye LaVette and pronounces that the "never-say-die soul diva is back with another jewel in The Scene of the Crime".

So, what are you waiting for? Time to use those Amazon.com coupons!

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Comments:
Incredible. Bettye LaVette and Patterson Hood. T Bone Burnett producing a collaboration between Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (which I'll be reviewing in a day or two as part of the NaBloPoMo regimen). It seems like the universe of music is in upheaval, with some very delightful results.
 
Just wondering: what turned you around on the DBTs?
 
This CD. Can't explain why this one as I'd listened to 4-5 of their other ones. But Blessing and a Curse is what did it for me.
 
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