If you ever want to see the physical representation of what a soul looks like, you need look no further than singer Bettye LaVette.
From the time she cut her first single, “My Man — He’s a Lovin’ Man” at the tender age of 16 back in 1962, LaVette has been known as a musical interpreter of the highest order. No matter what genre the song, which are as varied as her storied career, those who have fallen under her spell proclaim that LaVette infuses everything that comes out of her with her own essence.
It’s a unique stamp, and one that will be on display for everyone to drink in on Aug. 24, when LaVette plays the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis.
The raw energy, which listeners have found both vibrant and warming simultaneously, filters all the way through her staggering oeuvre, everything from Motown to funk, even country-western and original songs, and she’s been twice nominated for Grammys.
There are more than a few music denizens who find it thrilling that LaVette is still working hard, despite the complications and obstacles she’s faced (interested parties should seek out her 2012 memoir “A Woman Like Me,” written with David Ritz); her newest collection of songs, the CD “Worthy,” has been turned into a complete concert showing all by itself, something of a first for LaVette, who usually incorporates newer tracks into the panoply of her vast musical reservoir.
Her lungs have been called leather, she herself has been called royalty, and she’s been compared to Tina Turner (even Janis Joplin), but somehow so uniquely her own stylist that, in the end, she simply can’t be compared justly with anyone else.
One thing is clear: LaVette thrills at leading audiences through a collection of journeys, each one lasting as long as song, and in total showing nothing less than the countryside of her soul. That’s a journey well worth taking.