Bettye Lavette

The dastardly deed in question on rediscovered soul queen Bettye Lavette's The Scene of the Crime (Anti) was Atlantic's puzzling failure to release an album she cut in 1972 in the Southern soul hotbed of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It was supposed to be LaVette's breakthrough, but didn't see the light of day until a French label resurrected it three decades later, which also kicked her long idling career into overdrive. In a neat bit of poetic justice, she recorded the second album of her comeback in Muscle Shoals backed by the greasy Southern rock outfit Drive-By Truckers and two guys who played on the '72 sessions: venerable keyboardist Spooner Oldham and bassist David Hood, chief Trucker Patterson Hood's father. With the relatively restrained Truckers admirably creating a classically slithery Muscle Shoals sound, LaVette puts on a soul clinic, wringing and twisting notes with smoking intensity, essentially singing as if her life depended on it while writing a textbook on emotion. In covering songs such as Willie Nelson's "Somebody Pick Up My Pieces," John Hiatt's "The Last Time," and Elton John and Bernie Taupin's "Talking Old Soldiers," she imbues them with so much of herself that they're not redefined as much as seized outright. Their selection defines LaVette as much as the single new tune—"Before the Money Came (The Battle of Bettye LaVette)"—a biographical tale based on stories Hood heard LaVette telling in the studio.
Tue., Dec. 4, 9:30 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 5, 7 & 9:30 p.m., 2007

 
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