Bettye Lavette, Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook
Transforming British rock classics into wrenching soul anthems
Bettye LaVette doesn't just cover other people's songs — she tears them apart. With a powerfully raw voice that reveals every one of her 64 years, this R&B belter transforms any British rock classic into a wrenching soul anthem. She pours the sad-and-loneliness back into easy-listening chestnuts like the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin." She strips the Who's "Love Rein O'er Me" down to its core, revealing its rhythm and blues roots. When she rasps her way through an emotional rendition of Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy," you believe what she's singing. Nothing came easy to LaVette, who's been working her way back into the spotlight ever since 1972, when Muscle Shoals, Alabama's historic FAME studio, scrapped her debut album without explanation. But all that struggle and survival is what makes her music so rich. When she plays "Maybe I'm Amazed," she slows everything down, sounding out every word, as if it's hard for her to accept the kind of love Paul McCartney's singing about. That's LaVette's special genius: taking a standard that's been played a billion times before, and helping you really hear the song again.