Bettye Lavette has been enjoying a tremendous revival in her career over the last few years as a new audience has discovered her soulful voice. As she showed at Nell's Jazz and Blues in West Kensington last night, that voice remains very much intact. Her six and a half minute emotional rendition of her 1965 recording Let Me Down Easy, written by Dee Dee Ford, was pure soul - deeply felt and gripping in its intensity. Utterly superb and mesmerising. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIJo6YUrsVw
Bettye looked great, very slim, dressed in black pants and top, and with short black hair. Her band was adequate, if unexceptional, although the bass was far too loud at the start. The trouble is that much of her material lacks real soul. Focusing on recent albums such as her latest, Worthy, and the 2005 album I've Got My Own Hell To Raise, the songs are mostly pop or country, and not really soul or, indeed, blues, which is what she excels in. She began with Bob Dylan's Unbelievable from Worthy, an album which received a Grammy nomination for best blues album. Other numbers included Joy, a Lucinda Williams song from her 2005 album, the upbeat You Don't Know Me, and her final number (As Close As I Get To) Heaven, from her 2003 comeback album A Woman Like Me.
At the age of 70 Bettye is still in her prime and one of the best female singers around, but I would love to have heard more of her sixties and seventies soul numbers. Apparently she will concentrate on these when she appears at the Northern Soul weekender in Blackpool in June. And that's really something to look forward to.
Earlier the support act De Lata got an enthusiastic crowd going with their Brazilian styled fusion stuff. Not really my cup of tea and their late running set meant that Bettye began late and ended without an encore. They're a lively band with numerous members however.