Kristi Singer – For The Sun News – Oct. 16, 2009
Just off the BonTaj Tour with Taj Mahal, blues-rock singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt will make a stop at the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach on Saturday with The Randall Bramblett Band.
Fans can expect to hear a variety of songs from Raitt’s 40-year career, which includes 18 albums worth of music and her latest release, “Souls Alike.”
“I’ve got about 40 years under my belt of music, about 18 albums worth of material to draw from so I’m hoping that we’ll get around to something that people really want and a couple of surprises as well,” Raitt said during a phone interview from her home in northern California.
Born into a musical family, the nine-time Grammy winner is the daughter of celebrated Broadway singer John Raitt (“Carousel,” “Oklahoma!,” “The Pajama Game”) and accomplished pianist/singer Marge Goddard. She was raised in Los Angeles in a climate of respect for the arts, Quaker traditions and a commitment to social activism. A Stella guitar given to her as a Christmas present launched her on a creative journey at the age of 8.
Here’s what Raitt had to say about her tour, “Souls Alike,” dealing with the loss of her brother and taking a much needed break.
Q: What can folks who haven’t seen you for a while, or for new fans, expect from your show?
A: I’m certainly going to do my hits – I was lucky enough to finally have some back in the ’90s after 20 years of plugging away. … It will be a good combination of blues and folk and some familiar songs. Hopefully some stuff from our last couple of records, too. If people haven’t seen us for a while I think they will get a full array.
Q: The Randall Bramblett Band will open for you?
A: Randall is a fantastic musician who I just champion. I put him on my last album, “Souls Alike.” I did a song of his called “God Was in the Water,” which is a beautiful, incredibly evocative tune. I recorded it before Katrina, but on the whole tour that we toured together, I did that song and dedicated it to the people of the Gulf Coast. Hopefully on the dates that I play with Randall as my special guest we’ll be able to do that one.
Q: Tell me about your latest album, “Souls Alike.”
A: I call the record “Souls Alike” because of my affinity with the songwriters. … I don’t write all of my own material. By the time I pick one to sing, it feels like I wrote it. It’s just something that’s an unspoken connection between two souls. Mya Sharp, Randall Bramblett and Emery Joseph – there’s a series of songwriters on “Souls Alike” that I felt such an affinity for them that I could have done a whole record of each of their songs.
Q: So they’re your “song soul mates”?
A: Yeah. “Souls Alike” is a line from one of the songs in there. … People ask me why I like the blues so much. It’s just something that’s a part of me. I don’t know how to explain it. But it’s the same way I feel when I write a song or when I find a song by someone else. I just feel that immediate connection and I gotta do it. You’re driven to sing it.
Q: I guess the big questions everyone must be asking you now is if you working on a new album?
A: This last year was very busy preparing for the Taj Mahal tour that we just finished, which ended up being very successful. We got great reviews and did terrific business, even though the recession has hit so many people so hard. But apparently in tough times people really like to get entertained because I really don’t think we’ve had as passionate of an audience as we’ve had in the last couple of months.
Before that, I was taking care of my brother who unfortunately passed away of brain cancer in April. So I don’t have anything other than a break planned after this next third month of our three month tour. When we finish up in the third week in November, I’m gonna take a little break and then probably next year sometime I’ll start thinking about what I’m going to do next.
Q: That is so important to have a break.
A: When a loved one is ill, and especially when he wasn’t married and we were very, very tight. I was honored to be able to be there for him this past year.
Q: What gave you strength through that?
A: His courage is what gave me strength. He’s battled brain cancer since 2001, which he was diagnosed right where the cell phone antenna went on the left side of his head, exactly where the antenna ended was where the tumor was. So it certainly started me doing a lot of research on the dangers of cell phones – especially for having the phone right up next to your head. I just say that as a cautionary tale.
He fought valiantly and beat back the first tumor – they gave him a couple of months to live. … The tumor was arrested for seven years, but then unfortunately he developed another one and the last year was very tough because he was paralyzed and went blind.
So what sustained me during that was just being surrounded by loved ones. … I was so aware of how precious every moment was. I think what gets you through it is being in the moment and trying to appreciate that every single breath is a blessing. And to be there for somebody to try to ease their suffering is the greatest calling you can have. There’s just no question about being there for them at that point. When you love somebody, that’s just what you do.
I miss him very much, but I was sustained by his courage and his ability to handle it himself. When you’re around somebody that’s going through that … none of us know what it’s like to be facing a death sentence and he just fought up until the end. And then when he knew that he wasn’t going to win, he just surrendered and it was an honor to be with him.
Q: What do you plan to do on your upcoming vacation?
A: Because I was with my brother away from where I live, just being home after a year of being away is going to be a vacation. When you’re talking to a traveling musician, there’s nothing more fun than actually having laundry in your own house and cooking your own food.
I have a whole bunch of friends and family that I haven’t seen in a long time. I can’t wait to be home for a while.
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