Three-time Grammy nominee Bettye LaVette returns to St. Johnsbury this month as part of the 10th anniversary KCP Presents Performing Arts Series, produced by Catamount Arts. LaVette will be accompanied by blues guitar legend James “Blood” Ulmer at St. Johnsbury Academy’s Fuller Hall on Friday, October 26, at 7pm.
“Soul singing doesn’t get any better,” raves the New York Times about LaVette, a living icon and song interpreter of the highest order. Called “truly a singer’s singer,” by the late great George Jones, LaVette’s been performing since the birth of ‘60s soul music and has been refining and recreating popular music ever since.
LaVette recorded her first hit at 15 (“Let Me Down Easy”) and toured with soul pioneers Otis Redding, Ben E. King, and James Brown. Although the recording industry proved fickle, LaVette has performed consistently during the past half-century, gaining cult followings in Europe and across the U.S.
LaVette’s popularity exploded after an iconic Kennedy Center performance of The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me” during an honors tribute to the band. She brought the house down and suddenly found a whole new audience for her unparalleled style of blues and soul singing. In 2009 she performed a show-stopping rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” with Jon Bon Jovi for President-elect Obama’s kick-off Inaugural concert. In April of that year, she shared the stage with Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr at Radio City Music Hall.
In late 2016, her friend, photographer Carol Friedman, pitched LaVette the idea of doing an album of Bob Dylan songs with Grammy Award-winning producer, Steve Jordan. The resulting Verve Records album “Things Have Changed” was born, prompting LaVette’s current tour. “This album is more hers,” says Rolling Stone, “more personal and reflective of her wicked ways, sly humor, and battle-tested wisdom than any (other) she’s made.”
Opening for LaVette on the Dylan songs tour is jazz, blues, and free funk guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer, known as much for his collaboration with jazz saxophone pioneer, Ornette Coleman, as for his raucous guitar and leathery vocals, evocative of his deep Southern roots. “Mr Ulmer’s guitar tone,” reports the New York Times, “a gasping metallic cry, expresses everything from out-in-the-woods loneliness to nail-chewing urban anxiety…mixing country licks, be-bop, and blues.”
Tickets for LaVette’s October 26 appearance with James “Blood” Ulmer at Fuller Hall in St. Johnsbury are available online at www.kcppresents.org or by calling 802-748-2600. The KCP Presents Performing Arts Series is produced by Catamount Arts working in association with Kingdom Country Productions and is supported by generous local sponsors with grant funding from The National Endowment for the Arts and the Vermont Arts Council. For more information or to purchase season passes, visit www.kcppresents.org.