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Watch Bonnie Raitt’s Only Sit-In With The Grateful Dead
The acclaimed slide guitarist joined the legendary band on New Year’s Eve 1989.

on November 8, 2023 No comments
By Andy Kahn

Grateful Dead guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir were both known to play slide guitar on various songs within the band’s live repertoire. Listen to early versions of “Row Jimmy” for examples of Garcia’s slide playing. Some early versions of “Row Jimmy” saw Weir on slide, but more prevalent examples of Bobby on slide occurred during “Althea” and on some of the blues numbers the band covered like “Little Red Rooster.”

Despite having two slide guitarist in the band, the Grateful Dead are not the first group to come to mind when the subject of slide guitar playing comes up.

Dozens of early bluesmen like Blind Willie Johnson, R.L. Burnside, Elmore James and Muddy Waters, are more commonly associated with slide guitar, along with those they influenced like Duane Allman, Mike Bloomfield, and Elvin Bishop among many others. The next generation of slide guitarists also included Ry Cooder and Little Feat’s Lowell George, who in turn were influential on another talented slide guitarist, Bonnie Raitt.

Raitt, who celebrates her 74th birthday today, would take those influences and establish herself among the top slide players on record. Raitt talked about her development as a slide guitarist with Guitar World in 2022.

“I heard John Hammond’s slide guitar first, then ‘Little Red Rooster’ and Elmore James,” Raitt told GW. “The Rolling Stones were my first exposure to real slide guitar, but the blues guys really fired me up. Ry [Cooder] is still a god to me. Ry and Lowell George are the biggest influences on my playing. I love the Delta blues: Son House, Fred McDowell, Robert Johnson, Johnny Shines, John Hammond. But Ry wrote the book on making it sound like your voice, which is what I try to do. He and Stevie Ray Vaughan are the greatest guitar players I’ve ever heard.”

Raitt was also asked about the impact Lowell George had on her slide style, to which she replied:

“He showed me how to use a compressor to let the note last longer, and that really impacted my slide style. I already kind of had my own style and was playing electric, but I wanted to know how he got the note to hold. Lowell was just remarkable. I can’t come close to Ry or Lowell, but their lyricism has continued to be an incredible inspiration to me.

“I had never heard anybody like Little Feat when a friend played me Sailing Shoes – and I just about fell over. I loved them so much. And the first two Taj Mahal records are right up there in the pantheon of people that have taken blues and reinvented it and pushed it someplace new.”

According to a 2016 The New Yorker profile of Raitt:

“Like George, Raitt plays a Stratocaster that’s run through a compressor on the way to the amp, an effect that narrows the sound and makes it sustain longer. Like him, she favors an open tuning known as taro-patch tuning, in reference to its Hawaiian origins. (One way to get taro patch is to take a guitar that’s in standard tuning and tune to an A-major chord, so that the A, or the tonic note, is found on the first, third, and fifth strings.)

One difference between the originally self-taught Raitt’s style of slide guitar playing and George’s approach, is that she wears her slide on the ring finger of her left hand. Most other slide players wear the piece on their ring finger, or like George, pinky finger. Raitt’s approach is the reason Jason Isbell plays slide using his middle finger.

Raitt appeared on several Little Feat albums, and George was meant to produce one of her records but those plans were eventually scrapped. George, who died in 1979 at 34, contributed to many records beyond those with he recorded with Little Feat, producing the Grateful Dead’s 1978 album, Shakedown Street.

While Lowell George’s collaborations with the Grateful Dead were restricted to the studio, there was one instance when Bonnie Raitt joined the band and demonstrated her the slide guitar style he so greatly influenced.

On New Year’s Eve 1989, the Dead brought Raitt out during the first set of their concert at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena in Oakland, California. Raitt was the only guitarist playing slide on “Big Boss Man,” the Jimmy Reed-popularized blues classic. First sung by Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Garcia began singing lead on “Big Boss Man” with the Dead following the keyboardist’s death in 1973 and the song’s return to the rotation in 1981.

December 31, 1989 was the only time Raitt performed in public with the Grateful Dead, but the masterful slide guitarist had previously performed with Weir and Garcia at Carlos Santana’s Blues For Salvador Concert in 1988. Raitt also sat in with the Jerry Garcia Band in 1987.

Watch Bonnie Raitt’s lone sit-in with the Grateful Dead below:

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Review: Goosebumps, hankies and a standing ovation for an emotional but tired Bonnie Raitt in Minneapolis
It was the first theater appearance in the Twin Cities in this century for the longtime Minnesota favorite.

on October 12, 2023 No comments
By Jon Bream

Bonnie Raitt is one of us. Well, almost. We sure treat her like she is. And she reciprocates.

“I get emotional when I’m here,” she said on Wednesday night at the sold-out State Theatre in Minneapolis.

Then the memories started flooding in.

“The Triangle Bar, the Joint, the Cabooze,” the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer said, naming some of her old West Bank haunts. “They’re in my Rolodex of the trouble I caused. I came to roll around in joy for the five decades I’ve been coming here.”

By now, you’ve probably heard the back story. Ever since recording her debut album on Lake Minnetonka in 1971 with producer Willie Murphy, the California singer/guitarist has been a regular visitor to the Gopher State. Especially when her late brother Steve, an engineer/producer, lived here for three decades. She would come here to water ski, hang out and listen to live music.

On Wednesday, the chatty Raitt conducted a roll call of all her musical friends who were at the State Theatre: Maurice Jacox, Bobby Vandell, Melanie Rosales and Ricky Peterson, who has toured in her band.

Raitt, 73, has performed dozens of times in the Twin Cities — from her debut at the Whole Coffeehouse at the University of Minnesota to big gigs at Xcel Energy Center and the State Fair (eight times at the grandstand, 1990-2016). Last summer, she rocked the new Ledge Amphitheater in Waite Park, near St. Cloud.

Bonnie Raitt performs at the State Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023 in Minneapolis.Bonnie Raitt performs at the State Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023 in Minneapolis.Duke Levine performs at the State Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023 in Minneapolis.Bonnie Raitt performs at the State Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023 in Minneapolis.Glenn Patscha performs at the State Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023 in Minneapolis.

© Tony Nelson /Special to the Star Tribune

Surprisingly, the road warrior hasn’t appeared at a Twin Cities theater in this century. The last one was the Orpheum in 1998, not counting a 2013 charity gala at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The ever-popular star’s concert Wednesday at the 2,200-seat State Theatre sold out well in advance. (She probably could have filled it for a second night.)

It was the penultimate show on a two-year tour, and, frankly, Raitt seemed a little tired. While she was emotional in her conversation, she was maybe less so in her singing.

There were winning moments, though, including a bluesy and brooding treatment of Bob Dylan’s “Million Miles,” the bluesy, jazzy, Mose Allison-evoking “Blame It on Me” with Glenn Patscha’s crying organ, and her own acoustic guitar ballad “Just Like That,” a rivetingly poignant true story about a woman who lost her 25-year-old son but got to hear his heart transplanted in another man. (Raitt did not mention that “Just Like That” won the Grammy in February for song of the year and the Americana Music Award last month for best song.)

By contrast, Raitt’s version of INXS’ “Need You Tonight” (which she dedicated to the TC Jammers band at Bunkers) lacked its usual lusty vibes, and she and her four-man band’s timing was off during “Something to Talk About,” her frisky 1991 hit. However, the group found its groove when Raitt and veteran Boston guitarist Duke Levine, who signed on just last year, jammed briefly on the reggae-flavored “Have a Heart,” another early ’90s tune.

The 13-time Grammy winner explained that she gets verklempt whenever she sings “Angel From Montgomery,” John Prine’s remarkable reflection of an older woman stuck in a bad marriage that she recorded in 1974. On this night, it was seasoned with Levine’s mandolin and Patscha’s elegantly mournful piano before Raitt delivered the last vocal line with a hauntingly painful ache in her voice. Goosebumps, hankies and a standing ovation.

To change the mood, Raitt and her band — with its terrific and longtime rhythm section of bassist Hutch Hutchinson and drummer Ricky Fataar — tore it up on Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House.”

For the encore, Raitt downshifted to the ultimate heartbreaker, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” her momentous 1991 piano ballad. When she raised her voice on the final chorus, the crowd cheered loudly. Patscha offered a sorrowful piano passage with a little classical flourish for the coda.

Raitt was so overcome that she told her band, “I can’t sing another sad song, guys.” So she skipped the planned piece on her set list and instead moved into the hard-charging 2003 boogie “Gnawin’ on It,” featuring opening act Roy Rogers on acoustic slide guitar. Finally, some genuine guitar fireworks as the two friends exchanged smokin’ slide passages.

For the finale, “Never Make Your Move Too Soon,” a Crusaders tune made famous by B.B. King, Raitt brought out Ricky Peterson from the audience. Currently part of Stevie Nicks’ band, Peterson unleashed some seriously funky organ that prompted Raitt to start dancing and jamming on guitar with Rogers. The giddy redhead looked like she was having as much fun as she did on the West Bank back in the day.

“I wish I could stay here for a month,” Raitt declared during the encore. Alas, she has one more show on the tour — “Austin City Limits,” television’s long-lived live music program.

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Roots legend Raitt runs emotional gamut
Grammy-winning guitarist delivers the blues, ballads and banter at the Burt

on October 1, 2023 No comments
By Eva Wasney

It started with a standing ovation.

And by the end of Bonnie Raitt’s sold-out concert at Burton Cummings Theatre Saturday night, the excited crowd had risen three more times for the acclaimed roots artist.

Raitt, 73, is on the tail end of a two-year international tour in support of Just Like That…, an award-winning 2022 album that has further cemented the American entertainer’s legendary status.

Sporting a sparkly green top and her signature hairdo — big red curls with a shock of grey — the commanding vocalist grooved her way through a playful and wide-ranging hour-and-40-minute set.

Before getting into the music, Raitt took a moment to call attention to the orange “Every Child Matters” banners hanging in front of the drum kit. She had visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights earlier in the day and described feeling heartened by the local turnout for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Many in the audience were wearing orange.

Winnipeg was well represented on the Burt stage Saturday.

Raitt kicked things off with Made Up Mind and some effusive praise for local roots act the Bros. Landreth. The song — a jammy cover of a Bros. original — earned Raitt the Grammy Award for Best Americana Performance last year. Brothers and bandmates Dave and Joey Landreth were unfortunately not in attendance due to their own touring schedule.

Concert Review

Bonnie Raitt

with Royal Wood

Saturday, Sept. 30

Burton Cummings Theatre

Attendance: 1,600,
approximately

★★★★ out of five stars

Winnipeg-born keyboardist Glenn Patscha, one-fifth of Raitt’s tight backing band, also got plenty of time in the spotlight — and deservedly so.

As a teen, Patscha moved to New Orleans to study piano under jazz icon Ellis Marsalis, and has recorded and toured with the likes of Levon Helm and Sheryl Crow. The headliner remarked several times how lucky she was to have him in the ensemble.

Sporting a sparkly green top and her signature hairdo — big red curls with a shock of grey — Bonnie Raitt grooved her way through a playful and wide-ranging hour-and-40-minute set © Dwayne Larson

Raitt is an artist who wields compliments freely and frequently. She spoke highly of everyone on stage and behind the scenes — at one point giving a peck on the cheek to a somewhat bewildered stagehand — and gave props to the many artists and songwriters who have inspired her career.

The setlist was an emotional rollercoaster, ranging from spicy, uplifting anthems to mournful bluesy ballads. “I can’t stay in the pit too long,” she remarked.

Shredding on the slide guitar in front of a backdrop made to look like a blue sky, Raitt played nearly as many covers as she did originals, including songs by Bob Dylan, Chaka Khan, INXS and others.

She reminisced about the late John Prine, a longtime friend and collaborator who died of complications from COVID-19 in 2020, before launching into Angel From Montgomery. The song and Prine’s death served as inspiration for the title track of Raitt’s 21st studio album.

Just Like That is a fictionalized account of a real-life story about a mother who meets the recipient of her late son’s donated heart. There were at least a few tears in the audience during the narrative-rich song, which earned Raitt two Grammys for best American roots song and song of the year. She beat out the likes of Beyoncé, Lizzo, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles to win the latter, proving that 52 years after the release of her debut album, Raitt continues to transcend.

Bonnie Raitt kicked things off with Made Up Mind and some effusive praise for local roots act the Bros. Landreth. © Dwayne Larson

Following an enthusiastic encore, the headliner closed with a cover of Bruce Cockburn’s Lovers in a Dangerous Time, accompanied by opener Royal Wood.

Wood, 44, a “Juno-losing” (his words) Toronto singer-songwriter, was also present during Raitt’s last Winnipeg appearance at the Burt in 2017. (She was scheduled to play Canada Life Centre with James Taylor in 2020 but the concert was cancelled owing to the pandemic.)

Wearing an orange T-shirt and with his salt-and-pepper hair tightly cropped, Wood was joined on stage by a pair of dreamy vocalists and a stand-up bass player. His set was full of charming anecdotes about his wife and two young sons, as well as slow, sad love songs old and new; including the perennial wedding tune I’m So Glad, and Armour from his latest album, What Tomorrow Brings.

Royal Wood — yes that’s his real name — returns to Winnipeg next March for a show at the West End Cultural Centre.

Bonnie Raitt in front of a sold-out crowd – Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – Sept. 30, 2023 © James “Hutch” Hutchinson

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Source: © Copyright The Winnipeg Free Press

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