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Bettye LaVette - Blackbird makes 'theinterrobang: Best of Filtered Excellence 2020'

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2020 was a year that we would all like to forget, but some outstanding art emerged through all of the tragedy and chaos. Included in the best of the best movies, TV shows, and music that make 2020 bearable was Blackbirds by Bettye LaVette.

The Blues Hall of Famer decided to release her stirring rendition of "Strange Fruit" ahead of schedule as it says as much about the history of American racism and the state of the country today.  "Strange Fruit" was originally recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939 and written by Jewish teacher Abel Meeropol who wrote the song based on a photo of two black men who were lynched as a crowd of white people looked in the camera pointing and smiling. The song was the featured track on her Verve recording which released at the end of summer.     Here's what theinterrobang's Earl Douglas wrote;

For her follow-up to the Grammy-nominated album, Things Have Changed, Bettye LaVette put together a collection of songs made famous by legendary Black women singers. With Steve Jordan back as producer/drummer and a kickass band that includes guitarist Smokey Hormel, Tom Barney on bass, and keyboardist Leon Pendarvis, LaVette takes songs by Nina Simone (I Hold No Grudge), Dinah Washington (Drinking Again), Ruth Brown (Book Of Lies), Nancy Wilson (Save Your Love For Me), Della Reece (Blues For Weepers) and Lil Green (Romance In The Dark), in arrangements that fit her seasoned, mature vocals. Jordan doesn't stay in one musical lane, arranging the songs that run the gamut from straight torch, funky jazz, Memphis soul and even a hint of 70s blaxploitation. LaVette turns Billie Holliday's Strange Fruit into a haunting, hypnotic look at racism's ugly after effects, emphasizing specific words to lyrics more bit. The only song outside of the concept is the closing song, ‘Blackbird'. Slowing down the tempo and subtly supported by a string section, LaVette turns The Beatles classic into an allegory about her 50 plus years in the business. For someone who has been making one killer album after another for the past 15 years, this one is the best of them of all. Blackbirds by Bettye LaVette is available now through Amazon, Apple Music and all major streaming services.

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