In spite of being one of America's consistently best, though least recognized rhythm and blues singers, Bettye LaVette has decided to foray into unfamiliar territory with I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, a collection of country and rock covers. Spanning an unbelievably wide range, including neo-classics like Dolly Parton's "Little Sparrow" and Roseanne Cash's "On the Surface," while incorporating favourites from greats Fiona Apple and Sinead O'Connor and topping it all off with a dash of venerated singer-songwriters like Lucinda Williams and Aimee Mann.
No mistake should be made, however, comparing LaVette to any of these talents. Her voice possesses a rough charm confidently teeming with her own wisdom and experience. LaVette performs a major feat of distinctly infusing her own personality with songs already delivered by her contemporaries. Her most impressive accomplishment is a striking acoustic rendition of Sinead O'Connor's "I Don't Want What I Haven't Got." Here LaVette's emotive and powerful voice is truly able to shine against a sparse backdrop, instead of in front of an impressive band like on the majority of the album.
Certainly one of the finer albums of this year, I've Got My Own Hell To Raise is also one of LaVette's strongest endeavours thus far. Perhaps it will finally garner her the recognition she deserves.