Readers who have followed me for awhile will know that I adore Bettye LaVette. From the moment I saw her perform The Who’s Love Reign O’er Me, at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors, I was hooked. LaVette has a genius for getting every drop of emotion, from every word in a song — when she sings, not one word is wasted, each word is necessary to the story of the song.
Imagine my excitement, nay, my delirious with joyness at learning that her new album, Thankful N’ Thoughtful, will be out September 25, celebrating her 50th anniversary in the music business. And, if an album isn’t enough, her autobiography, A Woman Like Me, will be released on September 27.
The album is described this way:
Produced by Craig Street (Norah Jones, Joe Henry, k.d. lang, Meshell Ndegeocello, John Legend, Charlie Sexton, etc.), TN’T is a selection of contemporary tracks written and previously recorded by Bob Dylan, The Black Keys, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Patty Griffin, Gnarls Barkley and others, which BETTYE consumes whole, rearranges deep within her soul and exorcises as her own through her voice filled with longing, rage, desire, despair, survival and victory. BETTYE’s voice—rough, tender, sensuous–is her instrument of inspiration and her dynamic power seethes throughout each song, wringing out the pathos, sharing her hard earned wisdom and story throughout these tales of her reinvention.
Thankful N’ Thoughtful opens with the funk injected Bob Dylan cut “Everything Is Broken” and when Bettye moans and howls the title refrain you have no doubt as to the trouble she’s seen. The entire album turned out to be a companion piece to her autobiography as while she was writing the book, she was also recording the songs on TN’T. On Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” she slows it down just a tad, then wrings every drop of sweat and blood from each and every syllable till your spine tingles, with “Dirty Old Town” (The Pogues/Rod Stewart), Bettye reworks the lyrical setting to Detroit—singing about her first love at Northern High and the Detroit race riots. Meanwhile, when she takes on The Black Keys’ “I’m Not The One,” the sensual grit of the song sizzles with her all-knowing rasp
Here, then, is the first song released from the album, “I’m Not The One:”