It’s been over 40 years since her recording debut, 20 years since her commercial peak and seven years since her previous album, so what’s Bonnie Raitt up to in 2012? Judging by the 12 tracks on Slipstream, more of the same, which is just fine by me.
The 62-year-old singer, slide guitarist and some-time songwriter has had an eventful few years in the interim between this album and 2005’s Souls Alike…the deaths of her parents, a sibling and a close friend and a tour with bluesman Taj Mahal.
Four of the tracks here were produced by Joe Henry and his crack session band, including drummer Jay Bellerose, bass player David Piltch and string sensation Greg Leisz. Two of those tracks are Bob Dylan songs taken from Time Out Of Mind (Million Miles and Standing In The Doorway.
The remaining tracks were produced by Raitt and feature her own band including long-time bass player James “Hutch” Hutchinson, drummer Ricky Fataar and keyboard player Mike Finnigan. Former NRBQ guitarist Al Anderson penned three songs and plays on four while guitarist Bill Frisell sits in on the Henry sessions.
The Bonnie Raitt-produced tracks have a live-in-the-studio vibe about them. Raitt’s slide guitar playing is in fine form and the band really cooks on tracks like Used To Rule The World, Down To You and Split Decision. Finnigan’s organ playing particularly stands out.
The four Henry-produced tracks are primarily acoustic, more subdued and, well, dustier sounding. The version of Dylan’s Million Miles is swampy, moody and sexy…“rock for a little while, I’ll rock you too”, Bonnie sings in a sultry, bluesy voice.
The Joe Henry/Loudon Wainwright number, You Can’t Fail Me Now is given a heartfelt reading as is the Al Anderson ballad Not Cause I Wanted To. As good as Raitt’s guitar playing is, it’s her ability to move the listener with her voice that has really become her forte over the past 40 years.
Marriage Made In Heaven was written by Paul Brady with lyrics by Raitt’s ex-husband, actor Michael O’Keefe and is a commentary on celebrity and greed. The other Dylan song, Standing In The Doorway is also a highlight, with Raitt singing, “I’ve been riding the midnight train, I’ve got ice water in my veins.
Casual fans may have forgotten what a fine interpreter and guitarist Bonnie Raitt is, but for those who have been listening for the duration of her career, there are no surprises here, just beautifully sung and performed songs by an artist who knows what she’s doing.
Click here to listen to Used To Rule The World from Slipstream: