The adage "there are no second acts in American lives" needs some work, but don't look to Bettye LaVette for help. Despite industry fiasco after industry fiasco, the singer's first act never ended. From her coveted teenage recordings for the Atlantic and Calla labels to the floor-pounding disco for Motown — and from her European forays into jazz and blues to 2007's mean-cat-moaning collaboration with Drive-By Truckers — LaVette's performances have only grown more riveting and emotional. On this year's Change Is Gonna Come EP, she channels Nina Simone for savagely original interpretations of popular standards, including a reprisal of her take on the Sam Cooke title cut that devastated President Obama's inaugural concert. She hasn't forgotten the struggle that forged her raw, ferine soul.
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