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Bettye LaVette inhabits songs on 'Blackbirds' / American Songwriter

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Usually American Songwriter focuses on artists that write and perform their own material, or contribute it to others. But in Bettye LaVette's case, neither of those apply.

.For this follow-up, the singer tackles selections (mostly) made popular from other iconic black women artists. The Beatles (almost) title track is the exception, but it fits the disc's theme of the African American experience in love, loss and civil rights through the decades. Songs associated with Nina Simone ("I Hold No Grudge"), Dinah Washington ("Drinking Again") and Nancy Wilson ("Save Your Love for Me") capture the dusky closing time bar/club vibe through stripped down instrumentation from an all-star quartet (including Leon Pendarvis on keys and guitarist Smokey Hormel) enhanced by drummer Steve Jordan's sympathetic production.

By the time the Beatles' "Blackbird" closes the set in a slowed down blues arrangement with a string quartet, most listeners will be wrung out emotionally from these expressive takes on generally seldom heard gems. Bettye LaVette may not have penned any, but she owns them just the same.  

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