All fall, this extraordinary, criminally unknown soul singer has been on tour in support of her new album, I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, selling out rooms across the country and in Paris, London, Vienna, and Amsterdam, appearing on Letterman, and selling more records in six weeks than her last record ever sold. For those who love LaVette and have for years, for those who've watched her career begin to soar over the last three years, for those who've watched her artistry continue to deepen and dare, one word echoes as the world takes notice: finally.
Born in Muskegon, raised in Detroit, and nursed on the blues, LaVette has lived a life of great opportunity, cavernous disappointment, and steady survival. She scored a hit with "My Man (He's a Lovin' Man)" when she was just sixteen. Got signed to labels, got dropped from labels, made records, had those records shelved for no good reason. Toured the country in Bubbling Brown Sugar opposite Cab Calloway. Had sporadic hits and near hits. It's all added up to a strangely bifurcated career. She's treated like royalty, mobbed, and clutched at in many parts of Europe, where Detroit soul music is seriously revered, and where audiences loudly demand their favorite Bettye LaVette songs and search the Internet for her early, rare releases. But mention her name to a stateside music lover and you're likely to get a furrowed brow and a distant look and "I think I know who you mean. . . ."