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Turn It Up

Turn It Up: December 7, 2012

Thankful N’ Thoughtful (Anti-) continues the remarkable run of rebirth that has become the story of Bettye LaVette’s career in these later stages of her life. Even though she showed great promise as an up-and-coming soul singer when she started out 50 years ago, circumstance and bad music industry mojo kept her R&B’s best-kept secret until LaVette’s improbable comeback started with 2005’s brilliant, Joe Henry-produced I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise.  Thankful, her third album since then, once again finds her dipping into unlikely canons for material and transforming these songs into entirely different entities. With help from Cassandra Wilson producer Craig Street, the Michigan native infuses her growl into gems by an unlikely array of artists ranging from Bob Dylan and the Black Keys to Savoy Brown and Gnarls Barkley. Most effective are two different readings of the Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty Old Town,” (made famous by The Pogues). The first version is a more upbeat reading that incorporates imagery from the 1967 Detroit riots and the latter, a hazy walk-through with the minimalist accompaniment of a solo snare drum and a sluggish soul groove.