Bettye Lavette was born Betty Haskins in 1946 and she made her recorded debut at the age of 16, before many of the female soul greats had set their voices to vinyl.
She sang with Ben E King, Otis Redding and James Brown, but it wasn’t until the 2005 album I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise that her extensive recorded career at last hit pay dirt.
So Lavette was, perhaps unsurprisingly, resolutely old-school in her delivery, dressed stylishly all in black and with a manner that was at once gracious and utterly in control. She didn’t seem to be the kind of performer who would go off-piste with “a funny thing happened to me earlier” stories, and a gloss of over-rehearsal veneered her chat at this southern fried show. It’s unlikely, for example, that many of her fans understood the reference to American Bandstand in one story. Similarly, her band were proficient and professional, anchored rather than soaring.
Yet everything else in the show was merely here to service Lavette’s voice, and what a wonder it was – smoky and with a smooth red wine sharpness, ringing out with a soulful flourish on Crazy and her first ever recording My Man, and blessed with an epic, jazzy tone on a version of The Who’s Love Reign O’er Me.
The set closed with a hopeful, redemptive Close As I’ll Get to Heaven bleeding into a breathtaking vocal-only cover of Sinead O’Connor’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, haunting evidence that her voice can transcend all imperfections around it.