Chicago Blues Festival Feat. Bettye Lavette
Timothy G. Merello30 June 2006
The last I was excited by a new blues album was in the '90s, so why the heck would I go to a blues festival?
Chicago Blues Festival Feat. Bettye LavetteCity: Chicago
Venue: Grant Park
g src="http://images.popmatters.com/bullet.gif" alt="" width="10" height="10" border="0" /> Email f" alt="" width="10" height="10" border="0" /> Email Printc="http://images.popmatters.com/bullet.gif" alt="" width="10" height="10" border="0" /> Comment I've been going to rock shows for a good 26 years now and listening to music for almost 40. Growing up, my four older brothers and two older sisters gave me a fine education in pop, rock, soul, country, and the blues. It's true, as a teen, most of what I spun on the hi-fi was punk rock, ska, and new wave, but my brother Bill did instill in me a fascination with the Chicago blues (well, Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley's Chess sessions, at least). Having lived in Chicago for nine years, one might think the Chicago Blues Festival is one of my regular destinations. In truth, I've gone only twice in the whole time I've lived here. Frankly, the Blues as a genre have seemed a bit stale in recent years. The last time I remember getting excited by a blues album was in the '90s when the nasty, juke-joint Fat Possum blues sound was at its zenith -- proudly played by artists like R. L. Burnside, T-Model Ford, and Big Jack Johnson. Of course, that's not the reason I haven't gone. What I'd really love to see at the Chicago Blues Festival is something a bit more eclectic. Why not book some rock bands like the White Stripes, the Dirtbombs, or Eagles of Death Metal, whose sound owes a large thanks to the the blues? What about the desert blues? Tinariwen, Boubacar Traore, Konono No. 1, and Amadou and Mariam would make a blues festival a true delight. Oh to be a festival curator instead of a lowly music scribe. This year's line-up did feature two performers, though, that caught my eye. Bettye LaVette and Bobby Blue Bland are both giants. Living legends, they can certainly be filed under the blues, but in truth both singers are far more versatile. LaVette cut her first single -- a soulful rhythm and blues croon called "My Man He's a Loving Man" -- as a 16-year-old in 1962 and was immediately compared to other rhythm and blues shouters like Aretha Franklin and Etta James. She had another hit, "Let Me Down Easy" in 1965. The ensuing years were not so kind to LaVette. Though she recorded for the likes of Atlantic and Motown and toured with Clyde McPhatter, Otis Redding, and James Brown, much of her music seemed got lost in the dustbin of music history.
Bettye Lavette - Let Me Down Easy