Well, I’m only about three listens in to the exceptional, Joe Henry-produced new album by Bettye LaVette, but I’m more than comfortable placing Worthy in my personal Top Five Joe Henry Productions. A true master class of song selection, production, pacing and performace, Worthy lives up to its title and then some. It’s hard to know where to start — certainly the additional decade of experience between JH and Bettye LaVette is on full display (remember that back in 2004 JH was actually a somewhat new name among hired producers). As always, the players on a JH production play a key role. Along with stellar support from Doyle Bramhall II, Chris Bruce and Jay Bellerose (and yes, Levon Henry contributes a horn arrangement to one track), I’d have to give the MVP nod to Patrick Warren’s piano, which adds perhaps the most unexpectedly distinctive voice to the songs. Of course, nothing can compare to LaVette’s uncanny ability to transform others’ songs into something quite her own. Her interpretive gifts are a wonder to behold and this record more than justifies her place among the elite singers of our time. A few release day notes…
- Bettye LaVette was slated to begin her two-week residency at Café Carlyle in NYC, but I believe tonight’s performance has been postponed or canceled due to the ongoing blizzard in the Northeast. Check with the venue for confirmation and word on the rest of the week’s performances.
- Jim Farber has a nice article on LaVette in the New York Daily News.
- There’s a great piece in this month’s Mix Magazine, with JH and Ryan Freeland discussing the recording of Worthy.
- You can hear the record in its entirety over at The Wall Street Journal.
- Mark Deming has a rave review of the record on All Music Guide.
- PopMatters’ Colin McGuire give Worthy and 8 out of 10.
- Blurt’s Michael Toland delivers an insightful, four-star review.
- Photos from Wednesday’s performance at Café Carlyle (Bettye was also interviewed by Paul Schaefer).
- A recent interview with The Guardian.
- UPDATED: Josh Hurst contributes his review to Medium.
BTW, my autographed copy arrived yesterday, which can be purchased from LaVette’s website, in both the standard edition and deluxe edition (which includes a DVD performance from July 2014 in London).