Country blues singer Bonnie Raitt comes to the MSU Auditorium Monday, April 28, for an 8 p.m. show.
Raitt’s roots can be traced back to such influences as her Broadway singer father, John Raitt and her early attraction to the country blues music of John Hurt, Muddy Waters and John Hammond. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Bonnie headed east for college, entering Cambridge in 1967 when venues like the Club 47 nourished a healthy folk and blues scene. It was in Philadelphia that Bonnie first took her guitar and distinctive blues interpretations onstage.
Initial success led to club engagements in New York, at Philadelphia’s Main Point, and at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Thanks to the introductory efforts of Dick Waterman, who’s managed most of the blues musicians during the past 10 years, she learned from Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Arthur Crudup, Howlin’ Wolf and her special mentor, Sippie Wallace. Bonnie signed with Warner Brothers in 1971.
Fans initially attracted by Bonnie’s blues performances weren’t dismayed with her debut album, Bonnie Raitt. The program included traditional material from Robert Johnson and Sippie Wallace as well as performances by Chicago bluesmen Junior Wells and A.C. Reed. The sessions were held in a garage on Lake Minnetonka, Minn., and as noted in the liner notes, “reflects the difference between music made among friends living together in the country and the kind squeezed out trying to beat city traffic and studio clocks.” Produced by Willie Murphy and engineered by Sylvia and Dave Ray of Koerner, Ray and Glover fame, the album also covered a range of styles that would become a Raitt tradition — a mixture of country blues, early R&B, interpretations of material by new songwriters as well as originial compositions.
It was with her next album, 1972’s Give it Up, that Bonnie began to get serious favorable notice. The album was recorded with members of the Woodstock and Cambridge musical communities, and brought to light the relatively undiscovered songwriting talents of Eric Kaz, Jackson Browne, Chris Smither and Joel Zoss.
1973’s Takin’ My Time brought Bonnie back to the West Coast to work with new found friends Lowell George and Bill Payne from Little Feat, Van Dyke Parks and John Hall of Orleans, who produced the album. On this album, Bonnie introduced some new elements into her repertoire — a salty calypso tune by Calypso Rose, Randy Newman’s “Guilty” and a bluesy rendition of Mose Allison’s “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy,” featuring Taj Mahal on harmonica.
1974’s Streetlights brought Bonnie to the uptown R&B talents of producer Jerry Ragovoy, who assembled the best New York session men on a variety of new tunes by New York songwriters. The album featured some fine interpretations of material by James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Allen Toussaint and John Prine.
Home Plate was recorded in L.A. during 1975, where she has lived since Takin’ My Time. A reunion of sorts with the musicians from that album, it combines the production talents of Paul A. Rothchild with her growing family of musicians and friends. Along with new tunes by Toussaint and Kaz, much of the material was written and custom arranged for the album by the musicians themselves — among them, John Hall, Fred Tackett, Bill Payne and J.D. Souther.
For Sweet Forgiveness, Bonnie and Paul Rothchild teamed up again, utilizing the close knit feel of Bonnie and her touring band as the focus of the sessions. Along with works by Browne, Kaz, and Karla Bonoff is an exciting revamped version of Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” featuring Norton Buffalo on harp and Mike McDonald from the Doobie Brothers helping out on vocals. Her latest album, The Glow, was recorded in ’79.
Tickets for the concert are $7.50 and $8.50 and are available at Sounds and Diversions, WhereHouse Records, Campus Corners II and the Union ticket office.