For 35 years Bonnie Raitt, the woman with the red hair and Fender guitars, has been bringing together roots blues, rock, touches of world music and bits and pieces of pop for a sound that continues to grab and hold 18 albums down the line.
An excellent guitarist and singer, Raitt has a way with a show. She’s also a fan.
“Choosing songs for albums is part of the fun and part of the chore,” Raitt said from a Dallas tour stop. “Some people happen to be prolific songwriters. I don’t. I love songwriters like Paul Brady, Randall Bramblett and Maia Sharp, writers that a lot of people might not be familiar with, just like I love writers like Jackson Browne and Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.”
“I’m a melody fan. When I’m looking for songs I ask friends and I try to find out about cool people. It’s so much fun to find people who have been around but are not necessarily internationally famous.”
Raitt is still on the road with her 2005 CD, “Souls Alike,” which is packed with songs by writers deserving of further recognition, and a CD/DVD package, “VH1 Classic Decades Rock Live! Presents: Bonnie Raitt and Friends.”
The tour will stop tonight at Municipal Auditorium. Keb’ Mo’ and his band will open; Raitt and Keb’ Mo’ also will perform do some songs together.
Raised in California, Raitt broke out of the late ’60s potent Boston folk scene. She has been around long enough to have earned a couple of generations of fans (and some Grammy awards) and to have a catalog that’s wide and deep enough to make coming up with set lists tough something less than a snap.
“There’s an art to doing it and if I mess it up I would hear about it,” she said, laughing. “I learned from my predecessors so I don’t do too many ballads in a row but also don’t do too many rockers in a row because people want to hear ‘Angel From Montgomery,’.” she said. “For this tour I’m finding maybe more obscure songs for my fans and for me.”
“Souls Alike” was produced by Raitt and co-produced by Tchad Blake. The disc features Raitt’s powerhouse band, including which includes Jon Cleary (keyboards, backing vocals), James “Hutch” Hutchinson (bass), Ricky Fataar (drums, percussion) and George Marinelli (guitar).
“Most of the time I pick the material, the musicians and the producers. I pick people I get a good vibe off of. The combination of the engineer and the co-producer are there as helpmates and another set of ears. I make records so I can tour, not the other way around.”
Not unlike her peers, Raitt finds it difficult to get radio airplay, so . That’s one reason she’s jazzed about the guest-laden DVD project.
“Older artists, we don’t get on the radio. Ageism is really a big deal,” she said. “I don’t get played on the radio, so that’s why I’m happy to do interviews, and thank goodness for satellite radio. Not everybody can get to see your show, so the VH1 Classic DVD is a way to reach more fans. My goal in life is to share the music.”
Another goal is working to help helping others. Raitt is involved in an array of projects, from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation to the Boys & and Girls Clubs Bonnie Raitt Fender Guitar Program. VIP seat and meet ‘n’ greet pass sales, available at CharityFolks.com, raise money for REVERB, the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and Common Ground Clinic.
“This tour we’re running all the buses and trucks on biodiesel,” she added. “We also have Green Highway (a traveling eco-village) with us to provide people information about alternative energy solutions.”
And then Raitt was off to join Keb’ Mo’ onstage.