By Lori Hoffman • firstname.lastname@example.org
In the late 1960s-early 70s Bonnie Raitt was a young artist on the college/folk music circuit who idolized the African American blues legends whose music she emulated — people like Mississippi Fred McDowell, Sippie Wallace, Muddy Waters and Ruth Brown. Sometimes she opened for them in concert all the while developing a distinctive blues rock and pop style all her own.
For many years that made Raitt a cult favorite with albums that included Give It Up, Takin My Time, Streetlights and Green Light. This was until a magical period in 1989 through the mid-1990s when Raitt became a bonafide star thanks to the commercial and multi-Grammy winning albums Nick of Time and Luck of the Draw and hit songs such as “Nick of Time,” “A Thing Called Love,” “Something to Talk About” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”
In the years since, Raitt has continued to deliver critically acclaimed albums and become a beloved music icon for younger artists like Adele, Bon Iver and Katy Perry, who have all covered “I Can t Make You Love Me.”
In 2012 she released her first album in seven years, Slipstream, another gem featuring her still powerful vocals and dynamic bottleneck guitar picking. The final leg of her Slipstream tour stops at Caesars Atlantic City, Saturday. Nov. 23. Prior to that visit, Atlantic City Weekly had a chance to chat with Raitt
“In a climate that sells less CDs, it’s a good investment to have your own label”
You’ve had a career that has come full circle. You once idolized great blues artists like Fred McDowell and Sippie Wallace and now young artists like Adele and Bon Iver are covering your songs. How do you feel about that?
My heart is warmed. I’m excited. I was very happy to have a new crop of fans coming to my concerts and more interest in my music whether it is shows like The Voice or American Idol that cover “Something to Talk About” or “I Can t Make You Love Me” and I hear about it, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Adele, to have people of their caliber cover that song [“I Can t Make You Love Me”] has been wonderful. To reach this point where Muddy and John Lee and Sippie Wallace were when I started out. You are at that point where you don’t have to look over your shoulder to see if your next record will be received well. I have a little bit of security and I thank my fans for that.
Slipstream is a terrific album earning a Grammy award for a newer category, Americana.
It was great that they came up with that umbrella. People like to put music in little boxes. There is such a wide range that fits in Americana [roots blues folk].
You self-released Slipstream on your Redwing Records. What made you decide to start a record label? Was it a necessity because of the current record business?
No not at all. I had a lot of interest from some labels. For me as a legacy artist who is established, the math works really well if you have the stomach and the staff to put together a great distribution, PR and management team. I have three wonderful women who are great at accounting, social media and my social activism side. Managing a label is very daunting task and those three are fantastic. In a climate that sells less CDs, it’s a good investment to have your own label.
How comfortable are you with the way records are released and promoted with social media?
It is certainly a great way to get the information out starting with the Web site. It’s a great way to communicate directly with fans and the fact that we can sell digitally is another reason for having our own label. Unfortunately, like bookstores the mom and pop record stores are [nearly gone]. It’s just a reality of the business.
You came out on stage with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones in San Jose to sing “Let It Bleed.” That must have been amazing.
It was wonderful. I’ve known [Jagger] since I was 19 and I hung out a lot with those guys over the years. We’ve opened for the Stones a few times and I was actually on their last DVD. It’s an honor to be included and a lot of fun. I’m such a big fan.
With your early success in the Philadelphia region, you should have a great audience here in Atlantic City, not a typical casino crowd.
We did almost 100 dates in the U.S. and we were two months Down Under and two months in the U.K. and Europe earlier this year. These 40 dates are really to pick up the fans that didn t get a chance to see us last time. It’s a continuation of the Slipstream tour with a lot of songs from the new album and other songs from my previous catalog I switch around depending on how I’m feeling that night. Playing with Marc Cohn is such a treat. We did a lot of shows with him and with Mavis Staples last year. As for the casino audience verses regular venues, by the time the lights go down and I come out there on the stage I’m just grateful to have a heated venue with great lighting, a showroom with comfortable seats and great sight lines. With my fans there it just feels like another Bonnie Raitt concert.
Will you be working on a new album after this tour? You took seven years between albums last time.
With all the preparation before recording the album it has been a three-year cycle and I think I deserve a break. But I’ve definitely got some ideas in mind and I’m hunting for new songs. I haven’t really had any time at home in the last couple years. It will be nice to settle for a bit and unpack my suitcase and not repack it right away.
You are well known for being passionate about various charitable and political causes over the years. What’s your current passion?
Getting money out of politics Whether you are left or right or the middle. I hope that is something we can all agree on going forward. It is just a travesty what has happened to what we call democracy. It is really an auction instead of an election these days. And clearly the energy and climate situation, whether its Hurricane Sandy or the fires out west we [need] to keep pushing for safer alternatives to nuclear energy, coal and fracking. Those alternatives are available and we can bring the price down. The energy situation, the campaign reform and Wall Street reform, those are high on my list ■
EVENT INFO – Saturday Nov 23. 9pm Caesars Circus Maximus. Atlantic City – $67.50, $89, $99