Bettye Lavette, Thankful N’ Thoughtful

Wayne Robins

By Wayne Robins

on 09.25.12 in Reviews

Thankful N' Thoughtful

Bettye Lavette
Maybe the best of the bunch

After enduring 40 years of bad luck in the record industry, the persistent blues/soul singer Bettye Lavette finally gained some career traction in the 21st century, with a series of smartly-conceived albums on the Anti- label. Thankful N’ Thoughtful may be the best of this bunch, matching Lavette’s interpretive skills with unexpected or unconventional song choices. On Bob Dylan’s “Everything is Broken,” Lavette sounds on the eve of spiritual destruction. “Dirty Old Town,” via composer Ewan McColl (and famously performed by the Pogues), could be a tribute to every troubled post-industrial city, and Lavette sings like she’s lived on the wrong side of all of them. The Black Keys’ “I’m Not the One” is defiant funk; Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” gets its hair mussed up; and Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” is just crazy thumping good. Lavette has made “a pretty memory of my disgrace,” as she sings on Patty Griffin’s “Time Will Do the Talking,” proving that sometimes just surviving to do good work is the best revenge.