Raw. Gritty. Gut-wrenching. Those are just a few of the adjectives that attempt to describe one of R&B's best-kept secrets: Bettye Lavette.

Raw. Gritty. Gut-wrenching. Those are just a few of the adjectives that attempt to describe one of R&B's best-kept secrets: Bettye Lavette. The Detroit-bred singer/songwriter (neé Betty Haskin) landed a deal with Atlantic at 16, notching a 1962 top 10 hit with "My Man—He's a Lovin' Man." But that and subsequent outings with other labels showcasing her R&B-to-blues-to-Broadway-to-dance versatility failed to ignite a mainstream fire. Renewed interest, thanks in part to Dutch label Munich Records' 2000 release of a live Lavette performance, has spurred her first U.S. album in 20 years. Proof that some things only get better with time, Lavette's scorching, soul-infused vocals and eloquent phrasing leave no doubt as to the emotional meanings behind such cuts as "Serves Him Right," "When the Blues Catch Up to You," "Salt on My Wounds," and the title cut. Better late than never.—GM

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