“I ain’t got no f*cking other plan,” says the legendary Bettye LaVette. She’s talking about her 61-year storied career, beginning in 1960’s Detroit, with a resurgence in the mid-2000’s. For her latest LP, simply titled LaVette! (June 16), she teamed once again with producer Steve Jordan for a special release on Jay-Vee Records, the label founded by Jordan and Meegan Voss. An interpreter without peer, Bettye chose to record an album of songs written by Randall Bramblett. “I think he’s the best songwriter I’ve heard in the past 30 years,” says LaVette, “and I just discovered him eight years ago.”
“Bettye LaVette is like a combination of Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis,” says Jordan. “When I prepare a band for her, I make sure we have it together. When she joins us, we’re only gonna get one or two takes, because she puts her heart and soul into each performance.” The late, great George Jones, called her “a singer’s singer”.
Born in Muskegon, Michigan, Bettye’s parents, Louisiana migrants, ran a club out of their home. They sold corn liquor and chicken sandwiches and spun records for the Black auto-parts workers and traveling gospel groups who didn’t have a hangout to kick back in and call their own. She was a toddler, listening in on old folks’ business; learning old folks’ ways. Some of that was conversation, observing the interactions, the repartee; some of it was the 78s that spun on the family’s jukebox — a trove of blues, gospel, country & western, and the latest R&B that filtered through AM radio playlists.
“When Bettye gets a hold of a song, it becomes her song,” Jordan explains. “It’s like she wrote it. She’s a great messenger, a communicator, an interpreter.
“I’m very happy with what we’ve done,” Bettye adds. “It is very, very difficult to please an old woman, but I’m nearly excited.”
She is a six-time Grammy nominee, has recieved a Pioneer Award from The Rhythm & Blues Foundation, has won several Blues Music Awards and has been inducted into The Blues Hall Of Fame. Bettye is one of very few of her contemporaries who were recording during the birth of soul music in the 1960s and is still creating vital recordings today.
She and her full band will be presenting songs from the new album as well as some older favorites.