Bonnie Raitt

on February 11, 2020 No comments
By uDiscover Team

American country blues singer-songwriter Bonnie Lynn Raitt has been making high-class music across five decades, amassing a host of awards and selling albums to a constantly growing band of followers who adore her gritty lyrics, superb guitar playing and lived-in voice.

Hard to believe but the excellent American country blues singer-songwriter Bonnie Lynn Raitt has been making high-class music across five decades, amassing a host of awards and selling albums to a constantly growing band of followers who adore her gritty lyrics, superb guitar playing and lived-in voice.

Hailing from the heart of Burbank, California Bonnie Raitt has enjoyed many fruitful liaisons with everyone from Little Feat and John Hiatt to Bruce Hornsby, Don Was to John Lee Hooker. Her fans love the fact she’s been through good and bad times and faced up to life and her career with refreshing candour that never borders on self-pity or regret. Without reinventing herself as such Raitt has seen musical trends come around to her way of thinking and is adept at embracing new sounds that suit her style. She is a formidable artist – a force of nature – and she ain’t giving up.

As a young and ardent follower of what would later be called Americana, Bonnie Raitt steeped herself in blues, folk and country-pop from an early age. The daughter of Broadway musical star John Raitt with a piano-playing mother Raitt enjoyed the kind of background where she was encouraged to develop her skills as a bottleneck guitarist – and this at a time when women in the music industry were, if not few and far between, certainly unlikely to be following that particular route. Her early albums brought her into contact with Lowell George and Bill Payne from Little Feat and she was able to communicate with them as an equal. Her early albums won considerable acclaim but sales were slower to materialise. The album Home Plate did cause a ripple however as she went in to bat for her sex and fond mainstream publications like Rolling Stone keen to listen up.

The aptly named Nick of Time arrived at the end of the 1980s and was so acclaimed and sold so well that three Grammy Awards arrived. Such success wasn’t exactly belated but it was long overdue recognition for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Best Rock Vocal Solo and Best Rock Group Vocal performance which Bonnie sent producer Don Was up to collect. Nick of Time has sold over five million copies to date and stands repeated listening today nearly 25 years after it was conceived. Mixing Raitt originals with excellent covers like John Hiatt’s ‘Thing Called Love’ and Bonnie Hayes’ ‘Love Letter’, Nick of Time called on a cast of West Coast stars like Ricky Fataar, Jay Dee Maness, Herbie Hancock and the ever-reliable Graham Nash and David Crosby, as well as Don Was favourites like Sweet Pea Atkinson and Harry Bowens. Three singles emerged that included the title track that became an anthem in 1989 and a rallying cry for women in the industry.

1991’s Luck Of The Draw found Raitt booking into her own form of songwriter’s boot camp. Amazed herself at her newfound stardom and anxious not to mar the moment nor slip into formula she retained Don Was and braced herself for some serious touring to hone the tracks on the album with roadwork rather than developing her studio tan. The trick paid off because Luck Of The Draw surpassed its predecessor and has sold over seven million copies.

This time the catalyst for the main event was a splendid Grammy Award-winning duet with the great Delbert McClinton (backing vocals by Glen Clark) on the Cecil and Linda Womack R&B epic ‘Good Man, Good Woman’, the perfect vehicle for Bonnie and a raw and rough voiced suitor like Delbert. If anything she now got even more favourable reviews and when you hear her take on Paul Brady’s title cut or thrill to the emotional terrain she crosses during ‘Tangled and Dark’ and ‘Come to Me’ you’ll want to join her journey.

Bonnie and Was concentrated again on finding the right specialists. Here you’ll enjoy the magnificent Tower of Power horns, Ian McLagan’s signature organ sound, Kris Kristofferson’s backups and Richard Thompson’s fluent guitar lines. Nothing lucky about this album, it’s a stone classic. Brady was also key to penning the hit single ‘Not the Only One’, which like everything else here hung around the charts for nigh on two years.

While Bonnie held fire for three years before returning to the writing desk with Don Was she was due a period of reflection because while in this phase of her career she was still coming to terms with the pressures of fame over the piece she was up to album number twelve.

In any case Longing in Their Hearts (1994) didn’t disappoint. The album starts with Little Jimmy Scott’s ‘Love Sneakin’ Up On You’ and the strongest possible arrangement this eccentric track warrants helped propel it towards the top of the US charts. Many of the same personnel remained on hand. Benmont Tench from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was a new recruit; Levon Helm arrived to add Band-like gravitas and Was paid special heed to the rhythm and horn sections. Raitt’s UK following, which has always been large and loyal, picked up on the song ‘You’, giving Bonnie a Top 40 hit here while British folk-rock lovers were delighted to hear the lady tackle Richard Thompson’s classic ‘Dimming of the Day’.

The live album Road Tested (a double album plus in the old money) restored Raitt’s status amongst those who might have missed her brilliantly conceived shows. The thing to remember here is that while album sales certainly kicked Raitt towards a new platform she never lost sight of her roots.

While live albums are often viewed as an adjunct to the main meal that isn’t the case here. Road Tested is an extraordinary document and remains completely underrated. Consider that Bonnie takes on the Talking Heads in ‘Burning Down The House’ and grabs the funky groove with panache, then contrast that with her version of John Prine’s lush ‘Angel from Montgomery’ or the Crusaders’ ‘Never Make Your Move Too Soon’. This isn’t sitting back and soaking up the applause stuff, this is deliberately cutting edge, sharp and challenging fare that nods back to her hero Mississippi Fred McDowell and also embraces newer blues guys like Chris Smither. Special mention too for Raitt’s long-time rhythm section – drummer Ricky Fataar – the erstwhile Beach Boy– and bassist James ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson – also pianist Bruce Hornsby who popped up on several key dates of Bonnie’s US tour.

Now generally when an artist completes a cycle of meritorious work with a neatly career-defining live album set harsher critics tend to move off and look for the next big thing but in the case of Fundamental, Bonnie’s last album of the last millennium, the smart money rallied behind her even though she’s split from Don Was and called in the super tag team of Tchad Blake and Mitchell Froom. It was time for a change – no one wants to stay still and Raitt doesn’t on this tight and treasured disc. Her penchant for a John Hiatt tune is a constant though and his clever, wordplay packed ‘Lover’s Will’ grounds the album at heart and provides a smart element of soul. Blues, Tex Mex, border ballads and straight in your face Delta nuggets flood about as the artist confronts the ageing up process and the perils of relationships in the hard-hitting ‘Spit of Love’ and ‘I’m On Your Side’.

Four years on and we’re proud to offer up Silver Lining. This diverse set mixes African gospel chorale, talking drums and a slew of new sounds brought to the table by Raitt’s collaborator Jon Cleary who writes, duets and propels the melodies on a staggering array of Moogs, clavinets and Wurlitzer. The keyboard is the instrumental centre of this album but the variety of colours is enhanced by tuba, gut-string guitar, balafon and loops. It’s Bonnie’s most deliberately ‘modern’ album but she wins the right to tackle something new by virtue of the strength of writing and performance.

Souls Alike continues to mine that more progressive vein although country lovers will recognise names like Lee Clayton, Randall Bramblett and Wayne Kirkpatrick cropping up in the credits. Bonnie cuts back here and après the sound to a more basic approach that highlights her ever-improving voice, her acoustic guitar abilities and some startling slide licks.

Throughout this period Bonnie continues to garner awards, Grammy gongs flowed for Luck Of The Draw and the nominations never dried up. To take the overview on this fine life and career then we suggest The Best of Bonnie Raitt: On Capitol 1989-2003, an 18-string marvel that fills in all the essentials and should whet the appetite for some seriously deep mining.

We should also mention that Ms Bonnie Raitt hasn’t confined herself to music alone, or even made any big deal about her role in upping the ante for women in her field – that’s not really her style. But she is synonymous with some important movements – not least of which is her part in The No Nukes effort. A confirmed environmentalist from the off – long before the albums cited here in fact – Bonnie Raitt is a formidable force. She’s an adult in a business that can be frivolous. Not to say she’s any kind of proselytiser. She is a sterling artist. She’s Bonnie Raitt, ’nuff said.

Words: Max Bell

Source: © Copyright uDiscoverMusic

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First Steps: Bonnie Raitt ‘Bonnie Raitt’: Roots Music in the Making

on May 27, 2015 No comments

by Brian Miller

Bonnie Raitt’s self-titled 1971 debut album showed more than promise: why she’s now one of the top female blues/roots artists was evident in every track.

She’s been called the best slide guitar player alive today. She’s been hailed as one of the top 25 blues artists of the past fifty years and she’s still going strong today. Folk singer, blues/roots performer, rock and roller, ballad weeper: Bonnie Raitt has seen it all and done it all. She put out several great records in the 1970s and became a critic’s darling (this means, folks, she barely sold any albums at all). She fell into alcoholism as well as drug abuse and then resurrected herself with political activism and a series of stunning albums beginning with Nick of Time in 1989 which she has called “my first sober album”.

She has received ten Grammy Awards. She is also listed as number 50 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and number 89 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. In a few weeks time (on November 8th) she will be 64 years old. She was twenty-one when she released her first record in 1971. It was a rather quiet affair, considering her musical heritage, but Bonnie was going her own way: the way of the blues. In retrospect, her first album showed us everything she was going to be. We, the record-buying audience, were damned slow on the uptake.

Bonnie was born into one of the most eminent musical households in America: her father was the famous Broadway singer/actor John Raitt, who had starred as the original Billy Bigelow in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel and as Curly in Oklahama!. Her mother, Marjorie Haydock, was an accomplished pianist. The marriage didn’t last. John Raitt went on to bigger fame as the singer of the hit ballad ‘Hey There’ from the perennially revived The Pyjama Game. He possessed both extraordinary good looks and a smashing baritone that stayed on the beat, as Broadway material is wont to do. He had a voice that lasted and it led him to perform with his daughter Bonnie in his later years. His final recording, John Raitt Broadway Legend, earned him a 1996 Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal.

I was always drawn to the blues. Alberta Hunter at the Cookery was
a life-changing experience. I only wanted to get enriched as a performer
as I got older, to have an audience which got older, too, and would come
to see me when I’m 80. And I didn’t have a legit trained voice.
My love was Bob Dylan. But as I got older I realized a good ballad
was a good ballad.

~ Bonnie Raitt

Their vocal styles couldn’t have been farther apart: she constantly plays with the beat, and is capable of delivering nasty blues as well as shimmering tearjerkers whereas her father was kind of a square singer, the kind in which Broadway revels. What they had in common was talent: loads of musical talent that has always been evident, even when Bonnie indulged in substances that, well, loosened her performances. Blues became the most natural thing in the world for her. She had to fight her way back to sobriety and to straight singing. Check out her duet below with Richard Thompson on his brilliant song ‘The Dimming of The Day’.


Which brings us back to 1971 and Bonnie’s first record. Bonnie grew up in California in a Quaker household, but graduated from Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1967. She entered Radcliffe College majoring in social relations and African studies. While there she became a serious fan of folk music, and of jug bands, particularly Jim Kweskin. She also fell in love with the music of blues artists such as Mississippi Fred McDowell and began a fierce regimen of practicing slide guitar. Remember, if you will, that at the time very few white women performed the blues, and almost no band employed a young white girl as a lead guitar player. White female folk singers were a dime a dozen, among them of course Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary, the incomparable Joni Mitchell, the well-established Judy Collins and Joan Baez, and Sylvia Tyson who had split from her husband Ian. But the blues? No one, nada, considering that Janis Joplin had already passed on. Even Janis’s success was based primarily on the fact that her record sales came from Woodstock-type rock fans.

Bonnie Raitt had almost no choice but to forge a solo career. She was talented enough to open for McDowell in 1970 and came to the attention of Warner Brothers, who arranged to record her first record, “done live on four tracks because we wanted a more spontaneous and natural feeling in the music (Raitt wrote in the album’s liner note), “a feeling often sacrificed when the musicians know they can overdub their part on a separate track until it’s perfect.”

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New book celebrates Mill Valley’s ‘Legendary Locals’

on May 22, 2014 No comments

By Paul Liberatore

After 20 years in Mill Valley, journalist Joyce Kleiner knew her idyllic little village in the redwoods was special, the hometown of rock stars and writers, artists and eccentrics, poets and politicians, activists, actors and famous folks of every stripe.
But until she wrote the new book, “Legendary Locals of Mill Valley” ($21.99, Arcadia Publishing), she hadn’t really appreciated the rich traditions and culture these celebrated people, both past and present, have woven into the fabric of life in the shadow of Mount Tamalpais.

“Researching this book was really good for me,” she said. “It gave me a fresh perspective. I’ve always been very grateful that I live here, but I realized all over again what an extraordinary and unique place this is. I got to see the quirkiness, the variety of lifestyles in Mill Valley. I met so many really cool, positive people who helped me re-fall in love with Mill Valley.”

She is not alone in her infatuation. Mill Valley, population about 14,000, was listed as one of the 20 best small towns in America last year by Smithsonian magazine. A guest columnist for the Mill Valley Herald and a former member of the town’s parks and recreation commission, she was approached last year by Arcadia Publishing, a company specializing in regional history titles, to help launch its “Legendary Locals” imprint with a book about Mill Valley, so far the only Marin town to be featured in the series. This is the third book Arcadia has published about the town, following “Images of America: Early Mill Valley” and “Then and Now: Mill Valley.”

“The success of our previous books led us to take a third look at the town,” said Legendary Locals Manager Kris McDonagh. “We began looking for a Legendary Locals author in Mill Valley based on a few factors: it seems to be a thriving community with great local businesses and very interesting residents and former residents.”

Very interesting residents indeed. After accepting the assignment, Kleiner was faced with a daunting challenge: How do you get a town full of fascinating people into one book?

“I could write three more books from the material I wasn’t able to include in this one,” she said.

Musicians alone could have filled the paperback’s 127 pages. As it was, she included Huey Lewis, Sammy Hagar, Bob Weir, Austin de Lone, Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur, former Sweetwater owner Jeanie Patterson, toilet seat guitar maker Charlie Deal, Dan Hicks and Dave and Jon Fromer. Kleiner sought out Village Music’s John Goddard for his expertise on Mill Valley’s musical history.

“He helped me understand the legacy of Mill Valley’s musicians,” she said. “When it comes to musicians, it was really hard to decide who to include, but he told me people he personally felt had to be in book.”

To organize such a stellar cast of characters, Kleiner divided the book into seven chapters. “Bohemia in the Redwoods,” for example, featured, among others, lesbian poet Elsa Gidlow, a founder of the alternative community Druid Heights: artist Tom Killion, whose images of Mount Tamalpais are iconic, and Jack Finney, author of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” a sci-fi classic about aliens replacing a small town’s residents with emotionless beings that emerge from pods.

“Finney’s choice to place the story in his hometown of Mill Valley makes the book particularly creepy for those who live there,” Kleiner wrote.

In the chapter “Visionaries and Quiet Champions,” she shines a light on environmental activists like former state Senator Peter Behr, Trust for Public Land founder Huey Johnson and Marin Agricultural Land Trust co-founder Phyllis Faber, who helped save woodsy Mill Valley and environs from proposed planned developments like Marincello, originally conceived to house up to 30,000 people in 50 apartment towers, hundreds of homes and townhouses on the Marin Headlands, now preserved in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

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