Artist: Bettye LaVette
Label: Cherry Red
Release Date: 01/27/2015
Worthy marks the return of acclaimed producer, Joe Henry, a decade after he helped Betty regain well deserved attention for I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise following years in obscurity. It’s been quite a decade with Grammy nominations for Scene of the Crime and Intrepretations: The British Rock Songbook. Now, fittingly, in the fiftieth year of LaVette’s musical career her special chemistry with Henry and some of the same musicians from that album is once again rekindled. The mostly spare arrangements accent every nuance and emotion in her unique approach to soul and blues, with guitarist Doyle Bramhall II and keyboardist Patrick Warren providing just the right support in Henry’s crystal clear production. You literally hang on to every word as LaVette caresses, wrenches, and twists each syllable as only she can.
While she has clearly stamped herself as an incomparable interpreter, her choices of Dylan, Mickey Newbury, Jagger and Richards, Lennon and McCartney, and even Mary Gauthier in the title track are not highly familiar songs in these writers’ catalogs. As such, Bettye not only uncovers some hidden gems but forges her own path, favoring current life affirming material with lyrics like “I’m still standing with my feet firmly planted on the ground” in “Step Away.” It’s mostly a ballad laden effort with a few up tempo tunes sprinkled in. Worthy takes LaVette’s fierce, brash attitude down a couple of notches from I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise, but she still has plenty to say, demonstrating why she continues to be one of our most important voices.
– Jim Hynes