Lavelle White
It Haven't Been Easy
Antone's/Discovery 74709
Last year Chicago's Dave Specter recruited bluesy jazz master Jack McDuff for a recording session that led to Left Turn on Blue, a delightfully brilliant mix of vintage jazz and contemporary blues.

This year senior songstress Lavelle White has done the same thing on It Haven't Been Easy. But instead of vintage jazz, she and producer Derek O'Brien blend Austin-style contemporary blues with traditional rhythm & blues. And instead of McDuff, they brought in guitarist Clarence Hollimon. The result: It Haven't Been Easy sizzles with finger-popping, house-rocking tunes. White used Hollimon and O'Brien on Miss Lavelle, her first outing on Antone's, but It Haven't Been Easy has a slightly different feel, a little snappier, more Memphis-like.

A Mississippi native, White recorded for Don Robey's infamous and notorious Duke Records before moving to Chicago in the late '70s. Now part of the Antone's family, her voice is in great shape; high notes are not a problem. The best of the 12 tracks are White's funky reworking of Eddie Floyd's "I've Never Found a Man to Love," the beautiful "Lay Down Beside Me" and the sultry "Mississippi, My Home," which features O'Brien doing Jimmie Vaughan licks better than, well, Jimmie Vaughan.

O'Brien repeats the feat on Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Those Lonely Lonely Nights," which White added to the playlist after learning of Watson's death during one of the sessions. And don't be surprised if Marcia Ball swipes the romping "Wootie Boogie" for her own songbook.

There is one glitch, but it's not musical. The cover art is a murky, colorized photo of White, apparently from way back when, that is just plain awful. The classy It Haven't Been Easy deserves better.

-- Dave Ranney

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Boulder, CO, USA.