Bettye LaVETTE – Change Is Gonna Come Sessions 2009

Bettye LaVETTE – Change Is Gonna Come Sessions 2009


Any fan of Ms. LaVette is well aware that she could sing Polka standards and bring tears to the eye. This CD is no exception; Bettye’s got the pipes! Singing several classics in an acoustic setting will knock you out. Her version of the Sam Cooke standard, “A Change Is Going To Come” is a particular standout. Highly recommended!
By John B. Ivey.

Having conquered the ghosts of a hard-luck past on her GRAMMY-nominated CD, The Scene of the Crime, Bettye LaVette shines a new light on that past with her latest, “Change is Gonna Come” Sessions. The digital-only EP for Anti- Records revisits Bettye’s forgotten post-Atlantic Records years as a nightclub singer, Broadway performer, and touring cast member opposite Cab Calloway in “Bubbling Brown Sugar.”

The EP opens with a stirring solo version of Sam Cooke’s posthumous Civil Rights anthem “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a song which Bettye sang with Jon Bon Jovi in January as part of the “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial” concert. Joining Bettye for these Sessions are pianist and musical director Al Hill, veteran bassist John Heard – who has accompanied such luminaries as Count Basie, Cole Porter, Ella Fitzgerald, and Art Pepper – drummer Danny Frankel KD Lang, Lou Reed, and Tom Hagerman from DeVotchKa on strings.

A mix of standards and soul classics from Bettye’s 1970s stage and nightclub repertoire rounds out the 6-song set, including songs by Thelonious Monk, Billy Strayhorn, Bill Withers, and Jimmy Reed. A rendition of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child” – a song that Bettye first performed with show-stopping magnificence in “Bubbling Brown Sugar” – highlights Bettye’s vocal mastery. Rather than attack, Bettye approaches these tracks with subtlety – while nonetheless wresting every ounce and every nuance of meaning from the words she sings. Once more, Bettye provides the definitive answer to the question posed by NPR in its review of The Scene of the Crime: “Is there any soul singer who brings more guts, more conviction and more emotion to her singing?” Absolutely not.

According to a review of the EP in the Detroit Free Press: “LaVette’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come Sessions’ (4 out of 4 stars on Anti-) features a new studio version of the song, plus smoky and subtle versions of jazz standards “God Bless the Child”’, “Lush Life” and “Round Midnight”. “God Bless the Child” has particular significance to LaVette, who used to sing the tune as part of the touring company of ‘Bubbling Brown Sugar,’ where she appeared alongside legendary Cab Calloway.’ Martin Bandyke continues in his review: “On the night he was elected president, Obama referred to Cooke’s civil rights anthem when he said, ‘It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, change has come to America.’ It’s been a long time coming as well for LaVette…What an absolute thrill to see her finally gain the long-overdue recognition she so richly deserves.”

Meanwhile, Bettye has been on the road for most of this year and will continue through the fall. During her time off in between dates, Bettye will begin recording a new CD to be released later this year. Of her performance last week in Minneapolis, Jon Bream of the Star Tribune proclaimed: “She remains the most deeply emotional and physically emotive R&B singer on the planet. When she sings, she gets in touch with the deep recesses of her psyche and soul. Imagine Otis Redding’s pleading style of Southern R&B rendered with Tina Turner’s leathery lungs, delivered with more emotion than Janis Joplin could summon.”
Bettye LaVette played to an extremely appreciative sold-out crowd at Joe’s Pub, above, recently where, for the first time in nearly a decade, she performed a cabaret-style show accompanied only by her pianist and music director, Al Hill.
Called “The sexiest female vocalist alive” by Esquire magazine, Bettye brought the theatricality into her set mixing a viscerally shattering delivery of songs from every style of popular music from Thelonious Monk to Bruce Springsteen and chronicling her life stories in between.
According to respected music journalist/author/songwriter Dimitri Ehrlich in Uptown Social: “She sings, she smolders, she testifies… standouts included a shiver-inducing cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” as well as re-workings of songs by the Beatles, Ray Charles and her old friend Otis Redding. LaVette still brings a world of pain to every note. “An extraordinary combination of raw emotion and sublime musical intelligence enhances a voice hinting at decades of disappointment, cigarettes, tear stained pillows and benders. Times may have changed, but the yearning and unbearable soul-bruising are still there”.

The evening included such tunes as Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”, The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”, the Buddy Johnson penned timeless “Save Your Love For Me”, Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight”, the Jerry Butler/Otis Redding collaborative classic “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, Bettye’s first single at 16, “My Man – He’s a Lovin’ Man”, the Billy Strayhorn composed standard “Lush Life”, Sam Cooke’s unforgettable “A Change is Gonna Come”, among others. Bettye chose to close her show with the gut-wrenching Springsteen number “Streets of Philadelphia”.
The greatest moment of the Obama inaugural concert was when Bettye LaVette dueted with a surprisingly simpatico Jon Bon Jovi on Sam Cooke’s timeless “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Here, the tough veteran soulster does another impassioned version of the song. Elsewhere, LaVette and a small jazz combo put a bluesy R&B spin on a batch of standards, old and new. Lady Day’s “God Bless the Child” is lean and mean, Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” is backed with delicate violins and Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” is brought back to the hardscrabble landscape of LaVette’s youth.
By Nick Dedina.
Bettye LaVette- Vocals
Alan Hill- Piano
Hohn Heard- Bass
Danny Frankel- Percussion
Tom Hagerman- Strings & String Arrangements
01. Change Is Gonna Come 4:11
02. Round Midnight 4:45
03. God Bless the Child 3:55
04. Lush Life 4:13
05. Ain t No Sunshine 3:09
06. Ain t That Lovin You 3:28

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