Sunday, May 10, 2009
Bettye LaVette: Best Interpreter in Rock
Quite simply, Bettye LaVette is the best interpreter of rock music going.
Possessing an incredible, soulful voice, LaVette consistently wrings out new levels of emotion from songs long lost in the classic rock radio ghetto. The best, recent example is LaVette's soaring take on The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" at the Kennedy Center Honors. Pete Townshend, who was being honored and the song's author, was reportedly moved to tears by her version.
Like a modern day Sarah Vaughn, LaVette reinterprets the standards of the day. Instead of recording Duke Ellington or Henry Mancini, LaVette covers Neil Young, Elton John and Sam Cooke. At her recent SunFest show, she performed searing versions of songs from Lucinda Williams and George Jones. During the show, the 63-year-old strutted and danced like the professional she is with 48 years in the business. She did take a break - a "senior citizen moment" - near the end of the one-hour set to sit cross-legged at the edge of the stage for an intimate ballad. It was a wonderful, albeit short, concert. LaVette is a treasure.
Below is a great recording of LaVette at Joe's Pub singing a killer version of Neil Young's "Hear of Gold." Enjoy.