Magazine article Colorlines Magazine

Bettye LaVette: The Scene of the Crime (ANTI-Records)

Magazine article Colorlines Magazine

Bettye LaVette: The Scene of the Crime (ANTI-Records)

Article excerpt

IN THE PAST TWO YEARS, a litany of popular-music magazines have run reviews both contextualizing and grounding Bettye LaVette's significance as an influential yet criminally ignored figure in 1960s soul music. On The Scene of the Crime, one gets the impression that anything written barely scratches the surface of her story, and that you'd still be plumbing the depths of the tales she has to tell even after a hundred listens.

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As the story goes and her recorded output attests, LaVette was far too independent and idiosyncratic for the Motown hit machine and ultimately too rough-hewn for even the legendary Memphis-based Stax Records (who shelved an early 1970s disc that didn't see release until 2000). Though she has recorded intermittently for a number of major and independent labels since 1962 (including, ironically enough, a Motown set following the departure of Diana Ross in the early 1980s), she has made most of her living the past 30-odd years as a live performer on the European blues circuit and Broadway. LaVette has also toured with theatrical companies, most notably opposite the late Cab Calloway in Bubblin' Brown Sugar. The re-released Stax recording led to a revitalized interest in her work and signing to ANTI-Records (home to Tom Waits, hip-hop crew Blackalicious and Jolie Holland, among others) and the release of the Joe Henry-produced I've Got My Own Hell to Raise in 2005.

Possessed of a million blues-drenched litanies on success, failure, love, family and perseverance, LaVette steers clear of "coulda woulda shoulda" anecdotes regarding her early career disappointments or grousing about the ascendancy of her numerous Detroit contemporaries. …

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