Bettye LaVette I've Got My Own Hell to Raise

It’s easy to look at certain eras of music and see that there was often too much of a good thing. Bettye LaVette easily has one of the greatest R&B voices of the last 40 years, but at the time of her mid-’60s arrival, she was dwarfed by peers like Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner, not to mention the slew of other great records being made in Memphis and Detroit. However, she persevered, finding modest success on small labels, and gaining support in the blues community. It seems to have paid off now, as Anti Records President Andy Kaulkin once again deserves praise for introducing another unheralded artist to a wider audience. Producer Joe Henry takes a similar approach as on Solomon Burke’s modern classic, Don’t Give Up On Me, by recreating the brooding Memphis vibe, and allowing LaVette’s voice to shine in a completely unadorned fashion. The song selection is a stroke of brilliance as well, paying tribute to a wide range of female songwriters including Dolly Parton, Sinead O’Connor, Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple. Quite the concept, isn’t it? A great singer, paired with great songs and a sympathetic producer. Why aren’t more records like this being made? Aretha, Tina, drop the diva act and get to work. (Anti)