Betty Lavette | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Betty Lavette 

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On "Before the Money Came (The Battle of Bettye LaVette)," a track off the Detroit soul singer's new Scene of the Crime (Anti-), LaVette looks back with a triumphant sneer on a career that took four decades to get off the ground. She bitterly recalls cutting a shoulda-been classic album in 1972 at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, which was inexplicably shelved by Atlantic and didn't see the light of day till a French label released it in 2000--but she got the last laugh, achieving broad success with 2005's I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, an unlikely collection of songs by everyone from Aimee Mann to Sinead O'Connor that she made all her own. On Scene of the Crime, a bluesy powerhouse of a record that deals head-on with intractability, misjudgment, and decline, LaVette picks another improbable context: she's backed by southern rockers the Drive-By Truckers (and Muscle Shoals vet Spooner Oldham on keyboards). In lesser hands this stuff might sound maudlin, but her characteristic feistiness and timeworn voice lend the tunes a feeling of steely resignation. Tonight's show is part of Estrojam; complete schedule on page TK. The lineup, from top to bottom: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, the Noisettes, Bettye LaVette, Suffrajett. a 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $18, $75 for a festival pass, 18+. --Peter Margasak

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