Bettye LaVette - Souvenirs
Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award winner Bettye LaVette's recent success with the Joe Henry-produced I've Got My Own Hell to Raise is a welcome blessing to all of us soul fans who have known the hard-luck tale of LaVette, who had to wait until her fifth decade as a recording artist and performer to get the praise and renumeration her immense talent deserves. As the news story points out, while many of her contemporaries were striking gold, LaVette bounced from label to label, recording some of the most intense soul to be committed to wax, with no success.
Today's selection is a perfect example. In the early '70s LaVette recorded an entire album, Child of the '70s, for Atlantic, but save for the great single "Your Turn to Cry" b/w "Soul Tambourine," the label (whose commitment to deep soul, at least on an LP level, was pretty much nonexistent by 1972) shelved the rest. It was not until 2000 that the material surfaced, on the French comp Souvenirs. (The Atlantic album has been newly reissued due to LaVette's newfound success; I don't have the details on hand, but it's available at Dusty Groove America and other specialty retailers.) The title track was written by John Prine (who also wrote Swamp Dogg's Vietnam anthem "Sam Stone"), and LaVette wrings every drop of passion out of the very touching lyrics while the band lays down a great country soul backdrop. I saw LaVette in Chicago in 2004 and her performance of this song, seated on the lip of the Oriental Theater's stage, was a total show-stopper.