Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed
Bettye LaVette approaches her album of Bob Dylan covers the same way that she always makes a song hers: by burrowing deep inside, then finding her way out from the bottom up. Songs from the classic rock canon are not new to the veteran soul songstress. On 2015’s Worthy, she wholly reimagined tunes by LennonMcCartney, Jagger-Richards and Dylan. Prior to that, her recordings included material by Elton John, Led Zeppelin and The Who. She’s got an innate sense of how to retain the core of these compositions while personalizing them so definitively that you’d swear she wrote them today if you didn’t know otherwise. Things Have Changed presented a special challenge: Dylan’s songs have been remade so many times, by such a wide range of artists, there was no guarantee she’d find a new route to them. But with the production guidance of master drummer Steve Jordan and a crew of ace players, including Dylan alum Larry Campbell on guitar, Pino Palladino on bass, Leon Pendarvis playing keyboards and assorted guests including Keith Richards and Trombone Shorty, LaVette nails the dozen tracks. It helps that she didn’t go for the obvious. With a couple of exceptions (“The Times They Are A-Changin’”), LaVette combs the corners of the catalog, coming up with songs like “Seeing the Real You at Last” and “Emotionally Yours” (both from 1985’s Empire Burlesque ) and the early “Mama, You Been on My Mind,” all perfect matches for her expressive, well-burnished voice. Sometimes all it takes is Bettye LaVette to remind us of what’s been right under our noses all this time.