Bettye LaVette, Eilen Jewell | City Winery | Blues, Gospel, and R&B | Chicago Reader

Bettye LaVette, Eilen Jewell Early Warnings (Music) Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., Nov. 9, 8 p.m. and Sat., Nov. 10, 8 p.m. 2012

On 2010's Interpretations, Detroit soul veteran Bettye LaVette was straitjacketed by a program of British classic rock—she can sing just about anything convincingly, but despite her heroic efforts, the mind-numbing familiarity of the tunes worked against her. With the hard-hitting new Thankful n' Thoughtful (Anti-), though, she gets back to her comfort zone, and the dark angles and harsh truths she brings to its wide range of songs make the originals seem sunny by comparison. Working with producer Craig Street, LaVette fronts a lean quintet that modernizes the classic Muscle Shoals sound with ominous atmospherics, and together they reimagine pop and rock tunes from the past four decades so perfectly that they might as well have been written for her. She customizes Ewan MacColl's "Dirty Old Town," turning it into a biting lament for the Motor City; she strips away the effervescent veneer of the Gnarls Barkley hit "Crazy," giving it a nasty sting; and she turns the existentialism of Neil Young's "Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere" into a feverish plea to get out of this world. Each performance contains some trace of the original melody, but LaVette reshapes every one, using her tense phrasing to make the words hit like an anvil or cut a knife. For this show, as usual, she appears with her working band, which so far has expertly transplanted the distinct feel of every new record into old-school soul workouts. —Peter Margasak Eilen Jewell opens.

Price: $38-$48

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