Legendary Soul singer Bettye LaVette takes on the songs of Bob Dylan with her new album Things Have Changed, released by Verve Records on 30 March.
Things Have Changed is the iconic singer’s tenth album and first album on a major label in nearly thirty years, and she tackles Dylan’s songs with the grit and experience that makes her one of the greatest living soul singers. 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,” Bettye LaVette says of Bob Dylan. 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.”
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 around, 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.”
The album’s title track is also its first single. It initially premiered on Rolling Stone Country, who said of the track: “It’s a foreboding song…and LaVette rips into it with bluesy grit, as though she’s unashamed of her own confessions.”
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 00s 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.
Things Have Changed is released on 30 March. Scroll down to read the full tracklisting and pre-order here.
Things Have Changed:
‘Things Have Changed’
‘It Ain't Me Babe’
‘Political World’ (feat. Keith Richards)
‘Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight’
‘Seeing The Real You At Last’
‘Mama, You Been On My Mind’
‘The Times They Are A-Changin'
‘What Was It You Wanted’ (feat. Trombone Shorty)
‘Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others)’
‘Going, Going, Gone’