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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Bettye LaVette, Fifth Harmony, Papa Roach, Twiztid and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, January 26, 2015

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Bettye LaVette


(Cherry Red)

Grade: A

Bettye LaVette had already made her celebrated comeback, with 2003's "A Woman Like Me," when Joe Henry produced the Michigan-born singer's acclaimed 2005 set "I've Got My Own Hell to Raise." Ten years later the two reunite, with LaVette sharing production duties this time, for another set that demonstrates Rochester Adams grad (and Madonna's brother-in-law) Henry's deft touch for showcasing her aching and emotive -- but never overbearing -- vocals. And while "Hell" featured LaVette singing tracks by contemporary female songwriters, "Worthy" shoots wider, fronting a spare but facile band as she injects fierce urgency into Bob Dylan's "Unbelievable" and poignant melancholy into both Mickey Newbury's "Bless Us All" and the Beatles's "Wait" while also turning the Rolling Stones' "Complicated" into a punchy call to arms and Lee's "Stop" into a soulful showstopper. Each of the 11 tracks frame LaVette's voice with subtle instrumental nuances -- particularly spotlighting guitarist Doyle Bramhall II and keyboardist Patrick Warren -- and she uses the space to make definitive statements with every song, right up to the soul-drenched title track, penned by Beth Nielsen Chapman and Mary Gauthier, which closes the album. "I'm kinda special in my own way," LaVette sings at one point, but both she, and "Worthy," are special in every way imaginable.

New & Noteworthy:

Jamie Cullum, "Interlude" (Blue Note): The British singer/songwriter/pianist dives into favorites by Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Hank Williams, Cannonball Adderly, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone on his seventh album, with help from singers Gregory Porter and Laura Mvula.

Fifth Harmony, "Reflection" (Syco/Epic): The full-length debut from the pop quintet that finished third on the second season of "The X Factor." We're not saying it's a female One Direction, but...

Ne-Yo, "Non-Fiction" (Compound/Motown): The R&B singer/songwriter gets a hand from Pitbull, Jeezy, T.I., Juicy J and others on his sixth album.

Papa Roach, "F.E.A.R." (Eleven Seven): P-Roach's characteristically hard-hitting eight album includes guest appearances by In This Moment's Maria Brink and Detroit rapper Royce da 5'9".

Punch Brothers, "The Phosphorescent Blues" (Nonesuch): The progressive acoustic quintet rides again on its T Bone Burnett-produced fifth album.

Twiztid, "The Darkness" (Majik Ninja): The horror-minded Detroit rap duo's latest marks its first full-length release on its new Majik Ninja label.

Also Out: Battle Beast, "Unholy Savior" (Nuclear Blast); Bjork, "Vulnicura" (One Little Indian); T. Graham Brown, "Forever Changed" (MRI); Dengue Fever, "The Deepest Lake" (Tuk Tuk); Dracula, "Swing of Death" (Frontiers); Eisbrecher, "Schock" (Metropolis); George Ezra, "Wanted On Voyage" (Columbia); Kenny G, "Brazilian Nights" (Concord): Katherine Jenkins, "Home Sweet Home" (Verve); Gov't Mule and John Scofield, "Sco-Mule" (Evil Teen); Paul Kelly, "Presents: The Merri Soul Sessions" (Gawd Aggie); Scott Kempner, "Live on Blueberry Hill" (MRI); Level 10, "Chapter One" (Frontiers); Lone Bellow, "Then Came the Morning" (Descendant); Lucy Angel, "Lucy Angel" (New Revolution/G-Force); Milo Green, "Control" (New Elektra); Derek Minor, "Empire" (eOne); Chris Moore, "Harmless Blues" (CEN/RED); Napalm Death, "Apex Predator -- Easy Meat" (Century Media); Periphery, "Juggernaut: Alpha" "Juggernaut: Omega" (Sumerian/Century Media); Natalie Prass, "Natalie Prass" (Columbia); Jessica Pratt, "On Your Onw Love Again" (Drat City); Revolution Saints, "Revolution Saints" (Frontiers); Chris Spedding, "Joyride!" (Cleopatra); Sweet & Lynch, "Only To Rise" (Frontiers); THEO, "The Game of Ouroboros" (Big O); Pat Travers Band, "Live at the Iridium NYC" (Frontiers); 2Cellos, "Celloverse" (Portrait/Sony Music Masterworks); Venom, "From the Very Depths" (Spinefarm); Charlie Wilson, "Forever Charlie" (RCA)

From The Vaults: Bowling For Soup, "Songs People Actually Liked Volume 1: The First 10 Years (1994-2003)" (Que So/Brando); Harvey Mandel, "Snake Box" (Cleopatra)

New Music DVDs: "Gerald Way & My Chemical Romance: How It All Began" (eOne)

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