I’m gonna be honest, I’m not really a fan of soul music. I don’t dislike soul music, but when left to my own vices I am never gonna listen to it. Had it not been for The Drive-By Truckers backing Bettye on this album, it would have gone completely ignored by myself. Hell, it almost did anyway, regardless of that fact but I kept seeing it on top 10 list after top 10 list throughout the month of December. Finally, while trying to find a way to spend a gift card I got that didn’t include boobs, booze or deep fried foods I stopped by a record store and bought it.
I haven’t ever heard anything else by Bettye Lavette that I know of, so I’m not gonna sit here and reword the Wiki biography in an effort to look more knowledgeable than I am. Apparently she had a little bit of a career in the 60’s/70’s, experienced something of a comeback with the 2005 release I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise, and has now come out with this most recent effort, The Scene of the Crime. I learned all of that from one of Patterson Hood’s DBT mailing list messages.
I am surprised by the fact that almost this entire album is covers. In fact, all but one of the 10 tracks is a cover. I’d be a liar if I said I recognized all of the songs as covers right away, but a couple that I did recognize immediately were her versions of Willie Nelson’s “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces” and Elton John’s “Talking Old Soldiers”. I am also pretty impressed with how well Lavette’s voice goes with the swampy Southern sound of the Truckers, who probably put in their best musical effort in quite some time as a mere backing band. Sometimes the steel guitar seems a little out of place, but as a whole it works more often than not. In the end, I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this album. I’m not gonna run out and start buying soul comps or anything, but should DBT start playing backing band for old Motown artists looking to make a comeback, I think I’ll at least pay attention to them from now on.