Bettye LaVette is a true legend with a musical career spanning more than 50 years, she is now rightly recognized as one of the finest vocalists and one of the great interpreters of song. Her discography spans five decades, but it is within the past decade that she has finally been recognized as one of America’s finest vocal talents.
Her latest Grammy-nominated album, Worthy, features 11 songs composed by writers such as Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, John Lennon & Paul McCartney, Mickey Newbury, Beth Nielsen Chapman & Mary Gauthier (who wrote the album title track) and Joe Henry among others. As Joe Henry states; “With every song on Worthy, Bettye finds the thread that first will unravel it. Then she stitches it all back together until it fits her taut frame and fierce stride, until it bends to meet her; until each song’s story is somehow, miraculously, telling her own”.
Bettye LaVette world-premiered Worthy at the renowned Café Carlyle, NY, to much acclaim — Bettye LaVette Brings Café Carlyle to Tears with Old Songs from New Album Worthy. The prestigious residency kicked off a 4-month promotional tour of North America, including stops in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and in Europe, including London, Paris, and Amsterdam.
On Worthy, Bettye revisits Dylan with the opening track “Unbelievable,” with a funky urgency introduced into the song, not present in the original. On “When I Was a Young Girl,” she slides effortlessly into a slinky groove which Chris Youlden of Savoy Brown probably never imagined. “Bless Us All” is as relevant now as when Mickey Newbury wrote it decades ago, while her rendition of Joe Henry’s own “Stop” is jazzy, soulful and reminds one not to dare try to stop her. The musicians on the album all brought their A-game to the plate: Jay Bellerose on drums and percussion, Doyle Bramall II on guitar, Chris Bruce on bass and Patrick Warren on Piano, Hammond organ and Chamberlin.
Worthy showcases a special selection of songs, making for an extremely reflective, visceral, yet vulnerable album. “Where a Life Goes” is a conversation between Bettye and her deceased sister. When she sings the Lennon/McCartney track “Wait” and the title track “Worthy,” Bettye is at her most insightful and satisfied. Perhaps, the most heart-wrenching tunes of the lot may be “Undamned” filled with quiet desperation, and “Just Between You and Me and the Wall You’re a Fool,” on which she wears her tattered and battered heart on her sleeve.
Worthy is available on CD and as a Deluxe Edition, which contains both the CD and a live DVD of Bettye’s 2014 concert at the Jazz Café in London. Click here to order a personally-autographed copy
It's been a long time coming, 1962-2016, but a combination of Bettye's confidence in her talent and the appreciation by her audiences during those years, has finally brought her to this place where we can celebrate a talent that, like fine wine, has improved with age.
At the heart of the Bettye LaVette story, whether sung as a song or narrated in a book, is the notion of creative survival. It is her voice that both announces and ensures that survival; it is her voice that, no matter how dire the circumstances, lets you know that she will not be denied. It is her voice that compels you to listen to every word she says, sings or writes. That voice - rough, tender, sensuous and soaring - is an instrument of inspiration.
"Like all voices," says Bettye, "mine has changed over the years. I'd like to think that the change has to do with wisdom. I'm far more selective about what songs I'll sing. If I can't re-sculpt them and, in many instances actually reinvent them to be part of my story, I can't make them come to life."
“This ranks among the greatest feel-good stories in recent memory, but the feel-good part accounts for a small fraction of the story that Bettye LaVette has to tell. Her book, co-authored with David Ritz (celebrated biographer of Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and many others) is an unflinching and uncompromising look at a life lived across the tracks from fame, where the brass ring was always within view but never within her grasp.
"I did think there would be a book", she says by phone from New Jersey, where she now lives. "But I always thought I'd be discovered after my death, and then somebody would write this great book about me." We are thankful she got around to it herself. No outsider could have begun to do this woman justice.
What you get in "A Woman Like Me" is LaVette raw and unfiltered. "At my age I'm not trying to make any kind of impression on anyone", she says. The singer clearly relishes her late-life breakthrough, and she has never stopped engaging the world with the enthusiasm of a teenager. She has an endearing salty streak, leading to statements like, "I know everybody in Detroit over 50. No matter how rich or poor they may be, I've seen 'em drunk or broke or nekkid; sometimes all three." Read More @ Detroit Free Press
"The Kennedy Center Honors was the most exciting thing I have every done in my life, because there were so many of my favorite politicians there", says Grammy-nominated singer, Bettye LaVette. "And this year has been the greatest year of my life. Who would have ever imagined both Barack and I going to the White House?!" - I LOVE to hear this man's voice introducing me... :)
"Bettye LaVette proved to give the powerhouse performance of the evening at the Kennedy Center Honors when she sang her unparalleled version of "Love Reign O'er Me"as part of the Who tribute. The Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl recently described his first encounter with Bettye's rendition of the song to Air America's Richard Greene: "We showed up for rehearsal, and one of the performers was rehearsing the song for the Who segment. It was a woman named Bettye LaVette… She is gonna steal the show. She was so phenomenal, this performance of The Who song that she did. It will bring you to tears. The room was pin-drop silent when she did this song, and it was just unbelievable."
Show-stealing Bettye LaVette wows fellow artists at the Kennedy Center Honors with her interpretation of The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me". On his blog at TheWho.com, the legendary axe-slinger said, "My favorite moment was when Bettye LaVette sang a very fine version of 'Love Reign O'er Me' at the Gala and Barbra Streisand turned to ask me if I really wrote it!"
"A Woman Like Me" was nominated in Living Blues Magazine Reader's Poll for "Best Book of 2012".
"Her use of vocal texture, of which she has lots of shades, is perfect and really involves you with the track. Worthy is well worth the wait." - Express (London)
Bettye LaVette’s hilarious and harrowing new autobiography, A Woman Like Me. Clearly, this isn’t a woman prone to holding back." - New York Daily News