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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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April 2018

1
Courtney Marie Andrews
100 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
PK,CVL,DHO,JB,LK
2
Mary Gauthier
59 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
 
3
Caleb Caudle
49 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
TJ,TK,MP
4
Western Centuries
48 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
DD,GS,FS,HM
5
Vivian Leva
44 pts.
Time is Everything
Free Dirt Records
 
6
Ed Romanoff
42 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
 
7
Grant Peeples
41 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Continental
AN
8
Joan Baez
32 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
 
9
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
29 pts.
Texas, etc...
DollyRocker
MF,HDB
 
Sam Morrow
29 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
JV
11
Chris Smither
27 pts.
Call Me Lucky
Signature Sounds
JSM,JD
12
Michael McDermott
26 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
CRS
13
John Prine
24 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
SP
14
Mary Chapin Carpenter
23 pts.
Sometimes Just The Sky
Lambent Light Records
 
15
Dean Owens
22 pts.
Southern Wind
At The Helm
PJ
16
6 String Drag
21 pts.
Top of The World
Schoolkids Records
FCE,JS
 
Haley Heynderickx
21 pts.
I Need To Start A Garden
Mama Bird Recordings
 
 
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
21 pts.
Tearing At The Seams
Stax Records
RM
19
Abe Partridge
20 pts.
Cotton Fields And Blood For Days
Skate Mountain
MVP,RK
 
Adam James Sorensen
20 pts.
Dust Cloud Refrain
Continental Song City
BM
 
Ben Reel
20 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
 
 
Chip Taylor
20 pts.
Fix Your Words
Train Wreck Records
LM
 
Kesia Nagata
20 pts.
Looking For Horses
Caramal Productions
GC,EZ
 
Sheesham & Lotus & 'Son
20 pts.
Clear The Table
SepiaPhone Records
SZ,PG
25
3hattrio
18 pts.
Lord of the Desert
Okehdokee Records
 
 
Marlon Williams
18 pts.
Make Way for Love
Dead Oceans

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