Country-soul class from the vaults

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Bettye Swann

Like the recent revival of Candi Staton’s lesser-known work, Honest Jon’s Swann compilation is a trawl through the soul archives which produces some real jewels. This is ‘soul’ which often thinks it’s country, what with serrated takes on “Stand By Your Man” and “Angel Of The Morning”. Louisiana-born Bettye (real name: Betty Jean Champion) didn’t enjoy the business much in the late ’60s (when racism was still rife), and disappeared long ago. She’s now a teacher in Vegas. But she once made the rainiest stetson ballads scorch with R&B sparkle: Merle Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again” resonates with her rich, regal yet ripped-in-places tones. Terrific.