Wednesday, November 2, 2005

I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Detroit homegirl Bettye LaVette scored a ’62 R&B hit (“My Man — He’s a Lovin’ Man”) with her first record at age 16. Despite sporadic R&B success and performing “Bubbling Brown Sugar” on Broadway, she never charted pop. Spotted on the blues-soul festival circuit, Anti- Records paired her with fellow Michigander Joe Henry, who produced Solomon Burke’s 2002 comeback effort. Henry’s minimalistic approach works similar magic here, as LaVette wraps her steel-belted vocal cords around material written exclusively by female songwriters, ranging from country (Dolly Parton’s stark “Little Sparrow,” Lucinda Williams’s bluesy “Joy”) to folk (Joan Armatrading’s brooding “Down to Zero”) to modern-rock (Aimee Mann’s sassy, “How Am I Different”). LaVette hand-picked all the songs; the album’s title comes from a line in her jazzy rendition of Fiona Apple’s “Sleep To Dream.” And while she turns Cathy Maciejewski’s “Just Say So” (a country hit for Bobbie Cryner) and frequent Leonard Cohen collaborator Sharon Robinson’s “The High Road” into slow-burning soul ballads, the album’s highlight just might be the opening track — an a cappella take on Sinead O’ Connor’s “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” where LaVette sounds like she’s shredding yards of silk with every syllable.

Don Waller writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to


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