Bettye LaVette I've Got My Own Hell to Raise

Bettye LaVette is one of the greatest soul singers of all time, and has never put out a bad record. This album for Anti is done in the same style as Solomon Burke's recent work; it’s something of a concept, pairing the elder stateswoman with a Lanois-esque production style. Fortunately, I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise works out better by being less verbose (no Elvis Costello, for one thing) and having her pick a diverse assortment of covers songs by female songwriters. Producer Joe Henry is evidently going for a more atmospheric version of the Muscle Shoals production that graced LaVette’s Souvenirs, originally recorded in 1972. It’s heavy on boxy sounds, from the drums to the wheezy organ to the miking of her voice. Sure, this album is greasy and low-down, but it's kind of self-conscious in dirtying everything up to suit her voice. The production style rings absolutely true in many tracks, such as Dolly Parton’s "Little Sparrow” and Lucinda Williams "Joy.” However, since one never hears voices like this in R&B anymore, you wish the music could connect a bit more with contemporary soul audiences, as her classic disco single "Doin’ the Best That I Can” did so well in 1979. This is mature music for an older fan base, and should appeal exactly to who it’s intended. (Anti)