by Frank Matheis – August, 14th 2009
Most people who have enjoyed Bonnie Raitt’s music since 1989 would call her predominately a bluesy pop-rock star and a great slide guitarist. Those of us who were her fans in 1971 thought of her mostly as an eclectic folk-blues artist. Actually, both are true: she’s a popular rockstar who sells out huge concert halls and regularly does an acoustic set during her concerts. Unsuspecting rock fans are then treated to the best imaginable country blues without knowing it’s coming.
Let any naysayers point to her and claim that she’s not a blues performer, and let them listen to Bonnie’s renditions of “Walking Blues”, “Love Me Like a Man”. “Give it Up or Let Me Go”, “Big Road” and many more, and they will soon fold. Bonnie is a blues woman if ever there was one. Mississippi Fred McDowell, Sippie Wallace and a long list of other would second that!
In her own right, she has maintained true to her roots as a New York coffeehouse blues performer, although she found her fame and fortune in the more popular brands of music. More power to her. The daughter of Broadway start John Raitt, Bonnie has his musical genes, but she took a different track than her famous dad. Imagine making your debut album and getting Junior Wells to play harp for you (on the album “Bonnie Raitt 1971).
Much can be said about Bonnie, foremost that she is a phenomenal slide guitarist and fingerpicker, with a voice as pretty as the morning dew on a buttercup. She was a breakthrough performer and renowned for her bottleneck slide playing even way back in the 1970s, when there were virtually no women engaged in the fine art of sliding (Rosetta Tharpe made her name a few decades earlier). What a sight she was for the old bluesmen, petite with her big magnificent flaming red hair and that wicked slide. Oooeeee!
This year, 2009, she’s 60 years old and she’s still all that! And, then some! An enthralling, hot and steamy blues player she is at the top of her game and seemingly getting better by the day. When she lets those trademark, long, slow notes bend as she slide that big glass bar across the fretboard she’s sweeter than wine (and still fine, fine, fine).
Her self-titled debut album from 1971 on Warner Brothers still carries the closest ties to the traditional blues.
I’ve been going through life deep in love with Bonnie Raitt. When I met my wife in 1975, I told her “Yes, I love you, but before we go further in our relationship I have to tell you about this other woman that I love…her name in Bonnie Raitt- I never met her, but…”
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