With the arrival of her new CD SCENE OF THE CRIME, the flinty, intense soul stylist BETTYE LAVETTE unleashes a set of aggressive, sublimely crafted songs that are nothing short of mesmerizing.
Accompanied by the freewheeling renegade Southern rock band Drive By Truckers, SCENE OF THE CRIME is a multifaceted gem, ablaze with the unusual light cast by LAVETTE's complex layers of wrath, reflection and resolve. Recorded in the classic soul mine of Muscle Shoals' FAME Studios, the set is fraught with dire psychological elements. SCENE OF THE CRIME represents a volatile bid to dispel the shadow still cast by LAVETTE's simmering frustration over her stillborn Muscle Shoals-recorded 1972 masterpiece Child of the Seventies, an album that Atlantic Records maddeningly - and inexplicably - shelved before anyone heard it.
LAVETTE's vocals, a richly calculated union of blunt force trauma and unspeakable tenderness, boil over with long-carried need to flout that blow. Using a hand-picked set of titles by a diverse set of writers (from Willie Nelson to Elton John) LAVETTE foments another artistic revolution as she quells an aching personal thwart. Her revelatory, communicative performances confront decades of aggravation and disappointment not with bitterness, but upright defiance. The SCENE OF THE CRIME equation is enhanced further by contributions from two Muscle Shoals mainstays, keyboardist Spooner Oldham and bassist David Hood (who just happens to be father of Drive By Truckers guitarist Patterson Hood), and the sound achieved - gritty, restrained, fuzz-gilded, deep soul-rock grooves - provides ideal support.
The result of this striking convergence is profound, a resonant, emotional conquest of forty five years of hurt and bad memories. LAVETTE is captured in full fury, cementing the promise of 2005's extraordinary I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, a glorious reintroduction which also re-asserted her as one of America's most forceful and accomplished soul singers. While few were prepared for the hammering ardor of the Detroit soul veteran's approach, the disc was met with high praise ("an album of harrowing beauty," New York Times; "grabs listeners by the shoulders and insists they pay heed," Wall Street Journal) and won LAVETTE a long overdue measure of recognition.
Now, SCENE OF THE CRIME delivers an even more intimate session with the unrivaled singer. It also underscores the might of the Drive By Truckers, a young band who have been steadily increasing their own cachet. As the LA Times' Ann Powers said of their recent Stagecoach festival appearance, "the Truckers earned the right to a title several artists vied for this weekend: rightful heirs to the legacy of 1960s pioneers the Band." LAVETTE herself said, "To have recorded with Patterson's father all those years ago, and now to have recorded with both of them was singularly unique, and since it didn't happen for me the other time in Muscle Shoals, this was really a relief - I'm trying to avoid using the word revenge. And it's great to be able to show up with a strong voice and able to fit into a size 6 dress, so, really, the only ones I'm still angry with are those who died - because they can't see me."
This powerful, multi-generational mixture brings a remarkable gravity, and SCENE OF THE CRIME is a passionately declarative artistic achievement, one that could only have originated with the incomparable BETTYE LAVETTE.