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Bettye LaVette's 'Blackbirds,' is far from dated by 1960s shackles / Elmore Magazine

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An American treasure, Bettye LaVette's a blues-soul singer with a truly remarkable background and heritage. "I'll be 75 in January," she told me, and she has weathered countless twists and turns in her own musical journey since first recording as a sixteen-year-old with Atlantic Records, in Detroit. As we chatted, UK pop giants The Beatles surprisingly somehow creep, albeit forcefully, into the conversation about her current place and her new album, Blackbirds, on Verve, though the new album is far from anything dated by 1960s' musical shackles.

Blackbirds, I suggested, includes an unexpected and surprising take as a title track with a Paul McCartney song: "Well, why not? It's a song about a bird, hearing a bird singing. A blackbird!," she laughed.

"I was invited to sing at Ringo Starr's birthday recently. He's now 80. I told him I had thought that I was old!" I asked how he took that. "He was great. He just laughed. I sang at his birthday about four years ago. We get on okay."

How long was the latest project in the thinking and making? I asked.  Bettye laughed. "The new album was always there really. I always have projects on the go, songs I've already recorded, maybe just waiting 'til I'm ready to put it all together. I never do more than two cuts of any song. I've been doing this a long time and I know what works for me. And I have Steve Jordan again as producer. He knows what he's doing and he knows what I like." Jordan, now an industry veteran and always in-demand producer, also produced LaVette's last, widely acclaimed offering, Things Have Changed, in 2018, an album that gained Best Americana Album award nominations and introduced her to many more listeners globally.