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BETTYE LAVETTE —THINGS HAVE CHANGED (Verve Records)

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Other people write songs, but he writes vignettes, more prose than poetry. I didn’t find his words to be pretty so much as they are extremely practical or extremely logical. He can work things like ‘go jump off a ledge’ into a song. Notes Bettye Layette on talking about Bob Dylan. Lavette has been making music since 1962, it was then that at aged 16 she released her first single, “My Man – He’s A Lovin’ Man” on Atlantic, and though this is only her 10th album, her first for a major label in 30 years those who know music (fans and peers) have always recognised her fantastic ability to turn a song on its head, and kill it dead.  

Her unique, powerhouse vocals are the kind that stop you in your tracks, she doesn’t coerce she goes straight for the heart, and with Dylan’s fiery lyrics she feels completely at home. There is never a fear the lyrical content or meaning might be devalued as she ploughs headlong into the task of implanted her own soul-laden passion. Bob Dylan has never had his music covered by an artist that digs deeper or understands the emotion of his work better than Layette as she performs in her own, unique style a-dozen of his songs. 

LaVette’s comeback came at the turn of the millennium, and with producer Steve Jordan’s (former drummer in David Letterman’s house band) studio band of Larry Campbell (Dylan’s long time guitarist, sought after producer, multi-picker etc), bassist Pino Palladino, keyboardist Leon Pendarvis plus guests. On one track each you have Keith Richards (“Political World”) and New Orleans’ act, Trombone Shorty (“What Was It You Wanted”); the efforts of LaVette aren’t simple assisted, but underpinned with verve and passion above and beyond the norm as she turns “It Ain’t Me Bebe”, “Mama, You Been On My Mind” and “The Times Are –A-Changin’” and a block buster of a title-track “Things Have Changed” one and all into an epic piece. The latter appears twice, a full recording of near seven minutes, and the radio edit at just under four minutes! 

Both are superb. As she turns over one rock after another to press home her own, soul lung busting version, and with the ‘band’ pulling out all the stops the music comes out of the speakers in unrelenting fashion. As she speaks of how she is just ‘passing through’, and of how she's hurting but not letting anybody know as she speaks of being in love with a man who does not appeal to her. Funky soul at it’s best, take a well deserved bow Bettye, and Bob Dylan likewise for writing such wondrous, wry humour etched lyrics. 

Just to show she can perform alongside the best, there's also a teasing ballad as LaVette serves up a tantalising version of “Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight”; warmed in electric lead guitar, piano and various other sensitive splashes of instrumental playing it weaves a special magic. “Ain’t Talkin’” likewise is a demonstration of restraint as it speaks of how she is all worn down from weeping, and of how her lips are dry with weeping and of how the whole world is filled with speculation and people will jump on you when you are down. Underpinned by violin, and maybe a cello it is a moving experience. Her ability to make every lyric and nuance count is prominent throughout. As she captures the full attention of the listener! Moody ballad, “Emotionally Yours” may not be Dylan’s best-known song but LaVette’s handling of it could not be more caring as she performs the song in typical detailed fashion.   

        Maurice Hope  

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May 2018

1
John Prine
67 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
JJC,MB,SP,RM
2
Levi Parham
58 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
CRS,JB,TK
3
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
55 pts.
Texas, etc...
DollyRocker
HDB,CVL,DHO
4
Michael McDermott
54 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
JDO,LK,BK
5
Sam Morrow
48 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
MA,JBO,HB
6
Caleb Caudle
39 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
7
Western Centuries
36 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
MF
8
Carter Sampson
34 pts.
Lucky
Continental Song City
 
9
Charley Crockett
30 pts.
Lonesome as a Shadow
Son of Davy/30 Tigers
 
10
Courtney Marie Andrews
28 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
JV
11
Ed Romanoff
27 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
 
 
Joan Baez
27 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
HD
 
Pharis and Jason Romero
27 pts.
Sweet Old Religion
Lula Records
SZ,LM
14
Gretchen Peters
24 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
KG
 
Old Crow Medicine Show
24 pts.
Volunteer
Columbia Records
GF
 
Will Stewart
24 pts.
County Seat
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
17
Ben Reel
22 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
GC,FC
 
Birds Of Chicago
22 pts.
Love In Wartime
Signature Sounds
 
 
Emily Herring
22 pts.
Gliding
Eight 30 Records
RST,RH
20
Jenny van West
21 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Independent
PJ,FS,JJ
 
Mary Gauthier
21 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
 
22
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
20 pts.
Years
Bloodshot Records
FCE
23
David Starr
19 pts.
South And East
Independent
HM
24
Cold Tone Harvest
18 pts.
After You
Independent
 
25
Grant Peeples
17 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Continental

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