Well, here it is only March and I hold in my hand the CD that will undoubtedly be my Best of the Year for 2003; Bettye Lavette's new CD is perhaps the best female soul release in several years.
A Woman Like Me (Blues Express) was produced by Dennis Walker who also produced all the early Robert Cray releases. Walker was a major contributor as a songwriter on all of those early releases too, so it is no wonder that he has written nine of the 12 songs here, including two, "The Forecast (Calls For Pain)" and "Right Next Door (Because Of Me)" each appearing on one of Cray's Mercury releases, with the latter's lyrics being used to title Cray's "Strong Persuader" release.
Enough talk about
Robert Cray, though, since this is a Bettye Lavette release all the way
what a release it is. As mentioned in the album's liner notes, this
release is only the second time her talents have been showcased in a full
length album. She first recorded in the early ' 60s and has had numerous
single releases over the years with limited success. As is the case with
so many of our soul/blues performers, she has a large following in Europe,
prompting a 2000 live release from Germany coupled with a fine French
release of her complete Atlantic/Atco recordings from the late '60s and
early '70s. Both of these releases are well worth seeking out as I am sure
you will want to do after hearing this new release on Blues Express.
The previously mentioned second track, "The Forecast," rivals Cray's performance. It is a well crafted song that works well in Lavette's hands. The track that follows, "Through The Winter," is an absolute jaw dropper --- a slow burner wrought with as much emotion as a singer can deliver. What a trip!
Song number four is the other Cray song, "Right Next Door," a cheating song on a par with the best of that genre. When she sings "...I was just another notch on his guitar. He made me lose the man who really loved me , he made me break my baby's heart...", mine broke too.
Jumping to the sixth track, "Thinking About You," a sensuous song about a woman longing for her man. When she moans "hot," I break out in a sweat. What passion in her voice. Only halfway through the album and I am already in love with her.
Jumping once again to track number eight, "It Ain't Worth It After A While," you hear Bettye in a different light, a torch song very much in the Billie Holiday mold. This track has some fine piano by the great Rudy Robinson who unfortunately passed away shortly after recording this album.
number nine, "When A Woman's Had Enough," is a great Dennis Walker tune also
recorded by Shemekia Copeland on her new CD. If you want to hear how
sensational Bettye Lavette is, compare those two tracks. We all know how
great Shemekia is. Well, Bettye's version leaves Shemekia's in the dust.
"Salt On My Wounds" has a fine sax intro and is another intense slow
burner about lost love. Whew!
--- Alan Shutro
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Revised: February 28, 2003 - Version 1.00
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