Wiry and wise to life's vicissitudes, soul singer Bettye Lavette took the stool at the Café Carlyle, commanding from that small perch a powerhouse of songs featuring her new album, Worthy. Building up to the title song, Lavette's set included tunes from Bob Dylan ("Unbelievable"), Mick Jagger and Keith Richards ("Complicated"), John Lennon and Paul McCartney ("Wait"), not one of them a hummable known despite the fame of the songwriters, which made the evening a treat of discovery, providing a glimpse into some soul-searching moments in those artists' careers. Another tune was inspired by Lucinda Williams: "Don't Count Me Out Just Yet;" her "Before the Money Came" caused her to admit, "I have the worst time remembering the words because I wrote them." Bettye Lavette explained her choices: "I recorded these songs because I liked them. They didn't sell."
Accompanied by Alan Hill on keyboards, providing backup vocals, Darryl Pierce on drums, Brett Lucas on guitar and backup vocals and James Simonson on bass and backup vocals, Bettye Lavette's take on James H. Brown Jr.'s "Just Between You and Me and the Wall, You're a Fool," seemed an anthem, calling a lover on his bad behavior; it may take a lifetime of pent up rage to then be "Worthy." Or maybe I'm just reading into the narrative emerging from her music. Set free, taking requests, Bettye Lavette ended with "Heart of Gold," asking the asker, "Not enough sadness for ya?"
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.