Bettye Lavette: Lavette! review – more heart-on-sleeve power from the soul veteran

While still a teenager, Bettye Lavette left an indelible mark on 1960s soul music with a slinky brace of singles (My Man, He’s a Lovin’ Man and Let Me Down Easy), after which she seemed destined to become a two-hit wonder, especially after her label, Atlantic, sidelined an expensive, dazzling 1972 album, Child of the Seventies. Michigan-born Lavette had other ideas, though it took until 2005 before I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise, an album of songs by women including Sinéad O’Connor and Dolly Parton, re-established her as a singer of rare power and vulnerability.

Since then, honours have flowed – performing at Barack Obama’s inauguration, for example – alongside albums acclaimed for Lavette’s ability to inhabit and transform a song: 2018’s Things Have Changed, a set of Dylan covers, and 2020’s Blackbirds, celebrating pioneers such as Nina Simone and Dinah Washington. Like both of those, Lavette! was produced by Steve Jordan (these days the Rolling Stones’ drummer), and played by a faultless session crew. Its songs, by southerner Randall Bramlett, don’t have the heft of Dylan or Simone, but prove a good fit for Lavette’s heart-on-sleeve vocals, whether it’s the steamy southern soul of Don’t Get Me Started, the funky Mess About It or the forlorn It’s Alright. At 77, Lavette still has skin in the game.