Bettye LaVette’s previous two albums had titles that required a little digging to unpack: I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise took its name from a line in Fiona Apple’s “Sleep To Dream,” one of the 2005 disc’s fiery female-songwriter covers, and 2007’s The Scene of the Crime referred to LaVette’s return to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where she cut an early-’70s album that remained unreleased for more than 30 years.
This new one, on the other hand, lets you know exactly what you’re in for, as LaVette turns in Southern-soul renditions of tunes by such UK institutions as Pink Floyd, the Beatles, and Led Zeppelin. Yet if the title is straightforward, the music often isn’t, with LaVette teasing out new emotional details from songs that seemed to have given up all their secrets decades ago. (Who knew “Maybe I’m Amazed” had any amazement left in it?)
Yes, things can get a little Mojo-reader dreary, as in “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” which offers neither the Animals’ energy nor Nina Simone’s fury. But LaVette’s take on the Stones’ “Salt of the Earth” is a master class in creative compassion.