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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.
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