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Bettye LaVette - Blackbirds is a powerful album, to say the least, and makes SRI's 2020 Mix

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bettyReceiving the Ear Bliss look-see this week is the latest release from singer Bettye LaVette called Blackbirds. It finds LaVette putting her interpretive powers to work on a collection of songs all from black female songwriters. It is a powerful album, to say the least. Let's get to it and here's wishing a happy and safe holiday season to all you Ear Bliss readers out there.

The singer Bettye LaVette has always been about the song and not her own, but those of others. Whereas songwriting has never been part of the equation where LaVette is concerned, consider the three-time Grammy nominee one of our greatest song interpreters. On her newest release and second for Verve Records called Blackbirds, LaVette's interpretive powers are once again on display and this time out with an emphasis on songs from the 1950s associated with women of color. LaVette's career dates all the way back to the early 1960s and Detroit where as a teen she churned out early soul hits like "My Man – He's a Lovin' Man" and "Let Me Down Easy." Her Motor City peers at the time included the likes of Aretha Franklin, Martha Reeves, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye. LaVette's career faded by the late 1970s and she remained off the radar until the early aughts. It was the album I've Got My Own Hell to Raise featuring reworks of songs spanning Sinéad O'Connor and Lucinda Williams to Joan Armatrading and Dolly Parton all performed LaVette's distinct style that put her back on the map where she has remained. Suffice to say it has been a lengthy career and as Blackbirds demonstrates, LaVette remains a vital presence with her rich, soulful and raspy voice. The song selections on Blackbirds come from a mix of those popularized by her peers and others from iconic artists for which she has high regard with LaVette leaving her masterful mark on each and every one of them coloring each her own way. Produced by the drummer Steve Jordan who also helmed her last album, Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," Dinah Washington's "Drinking Again," Nina Simone's "I Hold No Grudge," Nancy Wilson's "Save Your Love For Me," Ruth Brown's "Book of Lies," and Della Reese's "Blues for the Weepers" are among the selections all of which are keepers. Recommended.