There’s a space in American music where country meets soul, where elements of blues, folk, pop, jazz, gospel and R&B meld in seamless alchemy, where genre boundaries are ultimately not very meaningful. For my money, the best of that music is rooted somewhere around two or three in the morning, when all is quiet, one’s emotional guard is down and the musicians are able to drive the voodoo down, getting at the essence of what it is to be human.
This is a space that is all too rarely accessed in most contemporary recordings, yet it is a space that Bettye LaVette returns to again and again on "I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise". The result is a record of majesty, richness and depth, of naked, raw, visceral emotion, a record that will raise the hairs on the back of the neck of any fully alive, blood pumping, breathing human being. It is also a record that reflects the wisdom and musical acumen acquired over a forty-three year career by a song stylist par excellence.
Who is Bettye LaVette you ask? The simple answer is Ms. LaVette is one of the greatest soul singers in American music history, possessed of an incredibly expressive voice that one moment will exude a formidable level of strength and intensity and the next will appear vulnerable, reflective, reeking of heartbreak. Unfortunately, it says much about the vagaries of the popular music industry that, although LaVette has been recording for over four decades, up to this point she has remained criminally unknown.