Bonnie Raitt, her bass player, Freebo and her dog, Prune, hit Carbondale Thursday night for her concert at Shryock Auditorium.
Sitting in her dressing room after the show, she commented about her performance. “Performing looks easy. It looks like you just sit up there playing your guitar and opening and closing your mouth when you are actually going through a whole spectrum of emotions with each song.
“Sometimes you just pick an order of songs that fit the order of your head, or that put your head in a certain mood. I get a lot of love from the audience, but tonight I was thinking about this particular guy, and the songs just fell into a natural order, like a conversation.”
Mimicing Flip Wilson in a high-pitched voice she said “De devil made me do it.”
“If you let the blues get to you too much, like tonight, you’ll go nuts.”
Arriving in Carbondale less than an hour before the concert, her journey from the East Coast consisted of a three-hour bus ride to Newark, NJ, waiting for her flight to St. Louis, and then a two and one-half drive to Carbondale from St. Louis.
“Last night I was at Max’s Kansas City, which is a notorious bar in New York. This friend of mine was playing there and they kept giving me free drinks. So I was really messed up, and I had a hard time getting up this morning. But we got a six-pack on the way to Carbondale from St. Louis, so actually it turned out to be a nice trip.
“Sure, I like to drink, but you have to watch it when you’re on tour, because every night is like Friday and it’s easy to overdo it,” Ms. Raitt said.
During the era of surf music, when Ms. Raitt was growing up on the West Coast, she listened to country blues.
“When I first heard people like Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reid, I just naturally liked them. I don’t know why I would listen to their records and try to play guitar like them,” she said.
“And then we moved East where people were into Joan Baez, everybody would say, “How did you learn to play like that” ‘You play like a guy.’ I was always a tomboy anyway.
Freebo occasionally stuck his head into the dressing room asking Bonnie when she was coming out. Referring to Freebo’s curly hair she said, “He really doesn’t know how weird he looks.”
“I don’t know much about classical music but Freebo does. He’s got a music degree.”
In her professional career Ms. Raitt does not want to be a big commercial success.
“I’m trying to jack down ticket prices and do a lot of benefits. I also want to sing songs by all of those good composers who are obscure but have been playing in small clubs for years, like David Van Ronk.”
Ms. Raitt played sessions for her first album in a garage on a Minnesota farm. “If I wanted a polished commercial record, I would have hired some hot-shot producer.
“Take, for example, Don McLean. He had his big hit “American Pie” and now he’ll never be able to live it down unless he produces something that is better. I want to stay away from that sort of thing, and being hyped-up by the media,” she said.
“I did my first album partly because I wanted to give David Ray some money for his new record label.” He wants to sell albums for $2.50. I’m also into the women’s movement.
Ms. Raitt often sings songs by Sippie Wallace, a black blues writer who is now 74 and living in Detroit. She came out of retirement recently by Ms. Raitt’s invitation to sing at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival.
“Sippie used to record back in the 1930s and she wrote much better lyrics than most blues people. She had a stroke a few years ago, and when blues people start getting old, they tend toward gospel music. I guess they want to get right with God.”
“She showed up at the festival in a real funky outfit with rhinestone glasses and everything but said she’d only sing gospel.”
“Later on when we were sitting around in the trailer goofing off, me and some musicians started singing. ‘Woman be wise, keep your mouth shut, don’t advertise your man,’ which Sippie wrote.
She was reluctant to join in at first, but then started humming along and “Well maybe I’ll just do a couple blues numbers.”
When the subject of touring came up, Ms. Raitt said, “I like to travel and I like to tour, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. When you sing the blues you can’t let it get to you often or you’ll go crazy.”