Bettye LaVette | City Winery | Blues, Gospel, and R&B | Chicago Reader
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Bettye LaVette

Bettye LaVette

Marina Chavez

When: Fri., April 17, 8 p.m. 2015
Price: $45-$55
Survival and redemption have been key themes during the resurgence of soul veteran Bettye LaVette, a singer whose uninterrupted late success took nearly four decades to achieve. She understands them firsthand, and her voice seems to reflect suffering, struggle, and victory more and more with each passing year. On the title track of her strong new album, Worthy (Cherry Red)—for which she reunited with Joe Henry, who produced her 2005 masterpiece, I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise—LaVette touches on the fight for recognition as she sings, “A diamond in the dirt / So totally concealed / Way down beneath the hurt / It was so hard for me to feel.” Henry helped choose an eclectic array of tunes, like the Dylan obscurity “Unbelievable” and the Rolling Stones nugget “Complicated,” in which she replaces Mick Jagger’s sneering swagger with a sly insouciance. Since she’s been working with Henry, LaVette has demonstrated a knack for reconceiving old songs and not merely covering them—in her hands they always become something new. Most of the album is about failed and bruised romances, which can certainly be extended to her life as a musician. For example, had her album Child of the Seventies—which she cut in 1973 for Atco in Muscle Shoals—been issued when it was meant to be, her career might have turned out differently. Real Gone Music recently gave that record its first stateside release, and not only has the music aged well, it also shows off a singer who already had the ability to make nonsoul material her own, as heard in her spot-on cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” —Peter Margasak
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