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Preview: Bettye Lavette Covers Bob Dylan on Upcoming Album "Things Have Changed"

Photo: Mark Selinger
Artist: Bettye Lavette
Title: Things Have Changed
Release Date: March 30, 2018
Label: Verve Records
  • CD
  • Digital

For her tenth album and first album on a major label in nearly 30 years, legendary soul singer
Bettye Lavette takes on the songs of Bob Dylan with the grit and experience that makes her one of the greatest living soul singers.  

Things Have Changed is a masterpiece of interpretation of one of the greatest songwriters alive, by one of the greatest soul singers alive. Keith Richards and Trombone Shorty Buest on the Steve Jordan-produced album, which is set for release on Verve Records on March 30.

Since the great 21st century rediscovery of Bettye LaVette returned her to prominence, she has worked extensively in the rock and folk idioms, with her unique takes on songs by the likes of The Who, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Fiona Apple, and Dolly Parton. But never before has she devoted an entire album to the material of one songwriter.

Things Have Changed spans more than five decades of Dylan songs, from 1964’s immortal “The Times They Are A-Changin’” up to “Ain’t Talkin’,” the epic final track on his 2006 album Modern Times.

“Other people write songs, but he writes vignettes, more prose than poetry. I didn’t find his words to be pretty so much as they are extremely practical or extremely logical. He can work things like ‘go jump off a ledge’ into a song,” says Bettye.

Bettye has only come face-to-face with Bob Dylan once, at a festival in Italy. Both backstage, Dylan was preparing to go on when his longtime bassist Tony Garnier pointed out Bettye. Dylan immediately stopped, walked over, and grabbed Bettye’s face in his hands and kissed her, and headed out to play his show.

Things Have Changed sees Dylan’s songs seriously transformed: “I had never really listened to It Ain’t Me Babe,“ she says. “But I had to make it more dismissive—not fast and hard, but like a Jimmy Reed tune. And ‘The Times They Are A-Changin,’ I had to flip that all the way round, so we worked up the groove on a beat box. That just made it extremely surprising.”

To pull off these transformations, LaVette needed a producer who was up to the challenge, and, through Executive Producer Carol Friedman, she found the perfect collaborator in Steve Jordan, former drummer in David Letterman’s house band, who has worked with everyone from Chuck Berry to John Mayer. “Steve was absolutely brilliant,” she says. “He remembers everything he has ever heard in his entire life, and he was able to interpret for the musicians everything I said to him.”

Jordan brought in an A Team of musicians, including Dylan’s long-time guitarist Larry Campbell, bass virtuoso Pino Palladino, and keyboardist Leon Pendarvis. The group was in such sync that the whole album was cut in just three days. Later, Keith Richards added guitar and is featured on “Political World” and New Orleans ace Trombone Shorty joined for “What Was It You Wanted.”

Grammy nominated singer Bettye LaVette has been in show business for nearly six decades. Her first single “My Man – He's A Lovin' Man” was released on Atlantic Records in 1962, when she was only 16 years old. She continued recording until her resurgence came in the early aughts with a series of albums of interpretations, and in 2008 she wowed the audience at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony with a heart-wrenching rendition of The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me.”

Her voice is like no other, and taking on the tricky canon of one of the most substantial songwriters alive is no small feat - but if anyone can match the heart of Bob Dylan, it’s Bettye LaVette.

Track List:
  • Things Have Changed 
  • It Ain't Me Babe 
  • Political World 
  • Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight 
  • Seeing The Real You At Last 
  • Mama, You Been On My Mind 
  • Ain't Talkin' 
  • The Times They Are A-Changin'
  • What Was It You Wanted
  • Emotionally Yours
  • Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others)
  • Going, Going, Gone