456. Bettye Lavette – “The Scene of the Crime”

Despite my delight in her previous release I was criminally slow in picking up this 2007 effort (I bought it as a present for my missus a couple of months ago).

I’d missed that this was, in effect, a collaborative album.  Lavette is backed, and produced, by fellow reviewees Drive-By Truckers.

The hook-up works a treat, as the band provide a wonderfully soulful backing groove, while Lavette continues her interpretation of the tunes of others (this time it’s Willie Nelson, Elton John, John Hiatt, and  Don Henley amongst others).

The theme here is world-weary, down-and-out laments saved from melancholia by  Lavette’s feisty, pull-myself-up-ness.

Her voice is truly stunning and enveloping.  She interprets a song better than almost anyone I can think of.  I find myself both actively barracking for her survival, while a little intimidated by her power.

I am particularly struck by the Nelson number Somebody Pick Up My Pieces, and the ‘sitting at the bar in full wise old head-mode’ that is the John-Taupin tune Talking Old Soldiers:

The one song penned specifically for the album, Before the Money Came (The Battle of Bettye LaVette), is also a classic edition to the small ‘tales of the music biz’ sub-genre.

File under: It should be a crime not to own this

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