Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bettye Lavette - Scene of the Crime (Anti, 2007)

To make it in the world of Detroit soul music, you have to be tough and man Bettye LaVette is tough. Originally a child prodigy, cutting an R&B hit at the age of 16, she kicked around the music scene for years after that, enduring a series of bad luck and trouble for finally hitting the big time with the excellent 2005 album I've Got My Own Hell to Raise. This album continues that success with another strong disc of soulful blues. Several of the songs here are deeply personal and autobiographical. "Talking Old Soldiers" is almost overpoweringly emotional as she recounts her personal ups and downs from a bar stool at a local watering hole:

I can hear what they say
There goes that old, crazy broad again
But I've things that would make a young man
Go out of his brains...

Before The Money Came (Battle Of Bettye LaVette)" shows a scarred but proud warrior who was once scraping to get by on nothing, but who is now older and wiser and success has finally found her. It's not all tap-a-vein material though, "Jealousy" is pulse pounding soul music with LaVette in full vocal flight, backed by a crack band, and "You Don't Know Me At All" is the mission statement of a proud woman who is fed up with all the cheating and lying going around. This is an excellent album of strong and rich old school R&B the likes of which isn't heard enough any more. may her winning streak continue so we can hear more of her tales of survival.

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