Hump Day Report: Bonnie Raitt is Back
Rants and raves about burning topics that have caught my attention midweek, be it greedy corporate shenanigans, frustration or joy in regards to the Philly sports teams, a movie, show or DVD that has fired up my imagination, an intriguing personality, or what’s happening in the region. — Lori Hoffman, Associate Editor, Atlantic City Weekly.
In 1971, a friend named Maria introduced me to a record by a new young singer and I was blown away, not just by Bonnie’s Raitt’s incredibly expressive voice in her self-titled debut, but her audacious slide guitar riffs. Back in the era when a new outbreak of feminism was sweeping the nation, a female blues hero with such hot guitar skills was a rarity.
Come to think of it, it is still a rarity.
I have been a Bonnie Raitt fanatic ever since that day when I first heard her on vinyl. Forty-one years, 19 albums and a dozen concerts later, I am still a fan. In the early days I was part of a small but loyal fan base. I knew I could wait to the week before a Bonnie Raitt concert at the Academy of Music or Valley Forge Music Fair to get tickets.
Then, out of the blue in 1989, Raitt came out with Nick of Time. Suddenly there were a whole lot more people who were suddenly Bonnie Raitt fans after the smash album went multi-platinum and earned her an armload of Grammy awards. The follow-up, Luck of the Draw (1991) did even better.
Her success continued after that but her “15 minutes of fame” as a mainstream commercial artist settled back into a comfortable groove buoyed by the devotion of her longtime fans and a healthy amount of converts from her Nick of Time years. (For an interview with Raitt I did in 2005, go here).
Which brings us to Bonnie Raitt, 2012 edition. Raitt just released her 19th album, Slipstream, and it is fabulous. It has the swagger of the young Bonnie Raitt from her Give It Up (1972) days, has the commercial appeal of her Nick of Time/Luck of the Draw era and the pathos of a singer who has had a lot of blues-worthy sadness in the last few years with the death of her parents and her brother.
Not that this album is a downer. Raitt’s consummate skill is her ability to deliver an album that blends uptempo grooves with songs that shatter us with their emotional truth. I’m very early into my Slipsteam listening cycle but so far my favorite is one of two Bob Dylan penned cuts on the disc, “Million Miles,” a love gone bad lament, featuring guitar work by guest artist Bill Frisell and a sassy vocal by Raitt that feels like it was plucked from her Give It Up years.
She does a lovely take on Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line,” and brings out the agony of more love on the rocks with the exquisite ballad “You Can’t Fail Me Now,” written by Joseph Lee Henry (who produced four of the tracks) and Loudon Wainwright III. The other Dylan song, “Standing In The Doorway,” is another relationship lament in which Raitt makes her slide guitar cry to match her heartbroken vocals. And, when you are ready once again for toe-tapping Raitt, her slide guitar chops get a workout on “Ain’t Gonna Let You Go” by Al Anderson and Bonnie Bramlett and “Split Decision” by Al Anderson and Gary Nicholson. When a record is this good I know my favorites will change as I commit the album to memory.
I was hoping Raitt’s tour would include a stop in Atlantic City but so far it looks like I’m taking a short road trip to Philly’s Academy of Music June 16.
Tags: Bonnie Raitt