This latest album for Antones by Lavelle White really caught me by surprise. Her 1994 release, Miss Lavelle, was one of my favorites of the year, and I figured it would be a hard one to top. But shes done it! It Havent Been Easy is a gem from start to finish. Ms. Whites voice is stronger than ever, shes backed by some of Texas best studio musicians, and the selection of songs, both originals and covers, is superb.
It Havent Been Easy is a little more soulful than the first album. Lavelles sassy soul lady side comes out on the very first cut, with a version of Eddie Floyds "Ive Never Found A Man To Love." The tempo slows on the second cut, "Lay Down Beside Me," one of the best on the disk. As on the first tune, the horn section led by Kaz Kazanoff gets a chance to really shine, and theres an exceptionally tasty guitar solo, presumably by Clarence Hollimon.
Ms. White shifts gears later in the album with a boogie woogie number, "Wootie Boogie," featuring nice piano by Riley Osbourn. The strongest blues song is the original "Mississippi, My Home," with the guitars and horns trading hot licks. Another exceptional original blues is "Black Widow Spider," with the band getting a little funkier here. Album producer Derek OBrien doubles by contributing his hot Texas guitar sounds to this and other cuts on the disk.
Lavelle shifts gears once again on another of her own tunes, "Cant Take It (I Dont Give A Damn)." I could easily imagine James Brown doing this song, so it goes without saying that the horn section again really gets to stretch out. Get down, Miss Lavelle!
It Havent Been Easy closes with a great rendition of "Those Lonely Lonely Nights," in which Ms. White breathes new life into the old Louisiana swamp classic. And that completes Miss Lavelles musical guided tour of Mississippi, Texas, Chicago and Houston --- what a trip!
I sincerely hope that we dont have to wait another two years for another Lavelle White album. This woman just keeps getting better and better. That next ones going to be a real killer!
- Bill Mitchell
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