"Everyone calls Bob Dylan a poet, but he doesn't write poetry," says soul singer Bettye LaVette, who tackles the Dylan songbook on her upcoming album Things Have Changed. "He doesn't really write songs. He writes prose."
Produced by drummer Steve Jordan, Things Have Changed (out March 30th) brings soul, melody and bluesy phrasing to a dozen Dylan tracks. The track list spans more than a half-century's worth of deep cuts and classics, with each song reinterpreted by a house band that includes Dylan's own guitarist Larry Campbell, as well as guests like Keith Richards and Trombone Shorty. At the center of the sound is LaVette's voice: a powerful, punchy instrument that wears its road-worn rasp well.
"This is the most unusual thing I've done," adds the singer, who kicked off her career in 1962 – at the age of 16 – with the Atlantic Records single "My Man - He's a Loving Man." Dylan's debut album arrived that same year. While his own career flourished during the decades to come, though, LaVette found herself struggling to grow a wide audience until the 2000s, when renewed interest in soul, gospel and American roots music brought her back into the public eye.
Making its official premiere above, the album's title track revises Dylan's original version with a dark, haunting arrangement worthy of a Quentin Tarantino western. It's a foreboding song – a crazy narrator's account of crazy times – and LaVette rips into it with bluesy grit, as though she's unashamed of her own confessions.