September 26, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
We gave it an A-

If Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, Dolly Parton, and Lucinda Williams have anything in common, it’s their reputation as gritty R&B songwriters. At least that’s their shared status in the transfiguring hands of Bettye LaVette, a soul veteran making an unlikely comeback on I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise, helmed by Joe Henry (who actually one-ups his Solomon Burke resurrection). When LaVette transforms Apple’s ”Sleep to Dream” into a wake-up call full of anguish and defiance, or turns Mann’s profane ”How Am I Different” chorus into a thing of raw beauty, Hell is heaven.

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