From Deep Soul to Disco, from Motown to Memphis and from
Funk to Gospel to Blues to Trance – Bettye’s
forty-odd-year recording career incorporates the whole
Foreword by Dave Godin
There is a quality about Bettye LaVette’s style, delivery and entire persona that can perhaps only best be described as “Soulful Determination”: a worldliness that comes from bitter-sweet experience and which in turn produces bitter-sweet irony. But, despite it all, it is a delivery that is the subtle range that Soul music covers, and Bettye LaVette, with her remarkable vocal range and stamina, is one of its finest accomplished exponents.
In addition to the inbuilt and unambiguous spirit of her own emancipation as a woman, she also conveys other realities and perceptions: that the ability to “fall in love” is not an act of weakness that makes you vulnerable and at the mercy of the loved one (though this can happen), but a supreme act of the imagination and the heart; in short, a phenomenon that requires courage and nerve.
Any strengthening and vitalizing process in life is not without risks, but this natural inborn recognition of one of the better characteristics that is unique to human beings, always hovers and echoes whenever Bettye LaVette sings… But then, Soul music has always been the music of the human spirit in motion.
Whatever else they say, nobody can say Bettye is not a tryer, and it is this gutsy spirit that always comes across whenever she begins to perform. And, in the field of live performances too, Bettye always gives the fans their money’s worth, and to quote a line from “Carmen Jones”, it seems Bettye’s motto might well be the same as hers: “Exhilarate me all you want. The more I get bumped, the more I bounce!”
One of the most difficult tasks any Soul performer has to perfect is the ability not just to sing well, but to also convey the character of the song, and in this respect Bettye never fails, not only to achieve, but also to amaze. (I have always said that to be a great Soul singer you not only have to be able to sing, but you also have to be able to act as well.)
There are dozens of really top-drawer Soul singers in what is a highly competitive field, but few can match the flawless totality of conveyed experience that Bettye LaVette never fails to achieve. All aspects, dimensions and angles of “womanhood” are not only covered, but filtered through a character which has been honed on good, bad and (just as importantly) indifferent experiences; one that is able to crystallize, present and convey what is generally known as “the score”.
She is the consummate artist who can relate on every level. Take Bettye LaVette away from Soul music’s history and there is a gap which no other person I can think of could have filled. Which, when you come to think of it, is saying: Bettye LaVette is unique! Once you realize this, you can go on adding complimentary adjectives ad infinitum… And she will deserve them all!
(Taken from the CD liner notes of ‘Souvenirs’ with the kind permission of Giles Petard)
Bettye is more popular than ever..