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BETTYE LAVETTE - I've got my own hell to raise


Sello: Anti-

LP + MP3

After four decades toiling in the record business with little more than a fervent cult following to show for it, Bettye LaVette can seem like soul music's equivalent of Roy Hobbs, protagonist of the bittersweet baseball fable The Natural. Whether this riveting collection of ten covers by an eclectic range of contemporary female singer/songwriters will change the husky-throated Detroit native's fortunes seems irrelevant: Its spare, dusky groove and intensely emotional, in-the-moment performances seem utterly disconnected from concerns as trivial as fame and fashion. A forceful, timely reminder that soul thrives on the singer and not the song, LaVette doesn't so much cover these songs as reinvent them from the inside out, be it the chilling, a capella read of Sinead O'Connor's "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" that opens the album, a gritty take of Lucinda Williams' "Joy" where the singer burns with a fire that might make Tina Turner envious or her recasting Dolly Parton's "Little Sparrow" as bluesy omen and "How Am I Different" by Aimee Mann as inviting, r&b shuffle. In a musical era where soulful authenticity and emotional resonance are too often virtual, this album is a delicious dose of the Real Deal. -- Jerry McCulley