Over a career that spans well over five decades. Bettye LaVette has fashioned herself into quite the song interpreter. Always one to completely rip a song down to its bones and come back with an arrangement that makes it completely her own (YouTube her performance of The Who’s “Love, Reign o’er Me” at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors if you need more proof), LaVette’s recent string of records in what she calls her fifth career find her cherry-picking quite the eclectic array of canons. Along with the usual suspects like Lennon/McCartney, Dylan and Jagger/Richards, she’s also put her stamp on songs by Lucinda Williams, Fiona Apple, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Elton John and John Hiatt. Here is a trio of songs that she’s covered that really resonate for her and why.
“Choices” (Billy Yates/Mike Curtis) from 2007’s The Scene of the Crime
“George Jones was also being honored the year The Who were at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors. I had done ‘Choices’ and we had gotten a Grammy nomination for that CD. So my husband got in touch with him to find out if there was a possibility that I could come and sing ‘Choices’ for George Jones. They said that virtually everyone
in Nashville was coming, so there wouldn’t be any room for me. That said, I love ‘Choices’ because that tells my story.”
“Where a Life Goes” (Randall Bramblett) from 2015’s Worthy
“I sing that for my sister who I was very close to and passed away.”
“Let Me Down Easy” (Dee Dee Ford) from the 1999 reissue Bluesoul Belles
“I like the minor chords. It was the first time I ever had strings. I really, really thought I was stepping up into the big-time more or less. So it was a milestone for me in my career. And it’s lasted me longer and sold somewhere every week for all these years.”