Reviews

Bonnie Raitt’s radiance and Lucinda Williams’ determination make for a durable double bill
A review of a durable double bill of Bonnie Raitt and special guest Lucinda Williams, live at the Tennessee Theater in Knoxville, Tennessee, May 29, 2022.

on June 2, 2022 No comments
by Lee Zimmerman

Bonnie Raitt and special guest Lucinda Williams

Live at the Tennessee Theater in Knoxville, Tennessee, May 29, 2022

Knoxville Tennessee Theater Sunday, May 29th

Given the fact that any chance to see Lucinda Williams or Bonnie Raitt individually makes for an enticing opportunity, having these two legendary women on the same bill adds up to nothing less than a compelling concert that ought not be missed.

Considering the remarkable resumes each individual holds each on her own, that pronouncement proved true when Raitt and Williams teamed up for a double bill and sold out show at Knoxville’s historic Tennessee Theater on Sunday, May 29th.

Sadly, Williams’ portion of the evening seemed somewhat shaky. Having suffered a stroke in 2020, that was understandable, but watching her being helped on and offstage, made her unfortunate predicament appear all the more tragic. Once at the microphone, she barely moved, other than to simply sway with the music. Happily, she had a capable backing band that was able to carry things with an ideal advantage, a fact made evident by the opening offering “Can’t Let Go.” Nevertheless, given Williams’ low-key countenance, much of the exuberance that might have been there otherwise came across as simply stifled. Her song “Big Black Train,” which focuses on her battle with depression, simply underscored the sobriety.

Of course, it wasn’t that she repressed her delivery by design. A story about singing one of her songs at a karaoke bar made for a particularly humorous aside. Likewise, when she gave homage Raitt as her tour mate (“I’m real happy we were able to do this show together. She’s inspired me as an artist. She’s something else.”), it was that sweeter sentiment that prevailed.

Nevertheless, it was Raitt’s obvious radiance that dominated the evening. That, of course, is hardly surprising, considering the fact that she boasts a recording career that encompasses 50 years and a list of honors that includes practically every award imaginable. That strength and stamina is borne out by her stunning new album, Just Like That, and a backing band that helps her live up to her legacy. Comprised of Duke Levine on guitar and backing vocals, James “Hutch” Hutchinson on bass, drummer Ricky Fataar, and “newcomer” Glenn Patscha on keyboards, it underscored the largess that her legacy deserves. With a set of songs that featured any number of highlights past and present, Raitt’s verve and versatility was on display throughout.

That said, an honest expression of emotion was also evident as the evening progressed. Several songs were shared with a sentiment that was neither contrived nor milked for any added effect. Present circumstances — the twin tragedies of covid and gun violence— made one of the newer songs, “Livin’ for the Ones,” appear all the more poignant.

So too, it’s a mark of maturity that Raitt’s material resonates so well. She referred to her early fear of getting older, and ridiculed it in retrospect, making it clear that she would never want to be 40 again.

Of course that’s hardly a surprise considering that Raitt has always drawn from an age-old regimen, much of which was borne from the blues. When she sings “Angel from Montgomery,” it resonates with a particular poignancy. Now covering it in the wake of her friend John Prine’s passing, its sadder sentiments naturally rise to the fore. She could easily transition into the old woman who’s described in the song — with flies in her kitchen and nothing to do all day — were she not the relentless road warrior she remains today.

Other factors figured into her performance as well. The recent horror of the Robb Elementary school massacre in Texas and the scourge of the pandemic went unsaid, but it was obvious that both hung like a pall over the proceedings regardless. As a result, the sincerity of the sentiment she expressed couldn’t be denied. Yet, at the same time, Raitt remains cooly confident by virtue of both her prominence and presence. Her sturdy vocals, nimble slide guitar work and even a brief turn on piano continue to serve the songs well, and given the choice of material — a selection of standards that included “I Can’t Make You Love Me,”“Nick of Time” and “Something To Think About,” a number of tracks from the new album (“When We Say Goodnight,” “Blame It On Me,” “Love So Strong,” “Made Up My Mind”) and even some surprises such as John Lee Hooker’s “Black Cloud” and Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” — very few fans could have hoped for any more.

Even now, at the tender age of 72, Raitt still rules. This particular performance proved that and more.

Look for an in-depth Bonnie Raitt interview in the June/July 2022 issue of Goldmine!


Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.


Source: © Copyright Goldmine Magazine and Rock and Roll Globe

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Bonnie Raitt’s Just Like That… Expands a Legendary Catalog
Taking stock of the blues and roots hero’s extensive career ahead of her visit to the Ryman

on May 25, 2022 No comments
Brittney McKenna

Releasing more than 20 albums during one’s career is an extraordinary feat in itself. But to do so with the spirit and virtuosity of Bonnie Raitt is another thing entirely. The beloved singer-songwriter and guitar slinger has racked up accolade upon accolade as her discography has unfolded over the past five-plus decades. She’s become one of blues and roots music’s most respected and decorated artists in the process. On her 21st LP Just Like That…, released in April — that count of 21 includes her two live albums, because they are no mere stopgaps — Raitt shows no sign of slowing down.

Just Like That… follows Raitt’s 2016 album Dig in Deep, a widely acclaimed record that, among other recognition, notched Raitt an Artist of the Year nomination at that year’s Americana Music Honors and Awards. Raitt’s 2012 album Slipstream, Dig in Deep and Just Like That… were all released via her own Redwing Records label, which she launched a decade ago.

Playing May 26 and 27 at the Ryman

Raitt recorded Just Like That… last summer in Sausalito, Calif., producing the album herself alongside recording and mixing engineer Ryan Freeland. Her studio band was a mix of longtime collaborators and new blood, including veteran bandmates James “Hutch” Hutchinson on bass and Ricky Fataar on drums. Relative newcomers Kenny Greenberg and Glenn Patscha joined the group on guitar and keys, respectively, while Raitt’s old friend George Marinelli lent guitar work to “Livin’ for the Ones.”

While most of Just Like That… is made up of covers, Raitt wrote four new songs for the outing. Highlights of Raitt’s original material include “Down the Hall,” based on a true story of a prison hospice program originally reported in The New York Times, and “Livin’ for the Ones,” which takes stock of the loved ones and collaborators Raitt has lost over the years with a mix of honest vulnerability and reverent homage. Raitt also pays tribute to those she lost in the album’s liner notes, including Toots Hibbert, John Prine and Allen Toussaint. “Down the Hall” in particular is a striking reminder that Raitt is a powerful lyricist, as the track takes the perspective of an inmate witnessing the last days of patients in the prison’s hospice ward.

Vocally, Raitt sounds as strong — if not stronger — as she did on landmarks of her catalog like “Angel From Montgomery” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” her naturally soulful voice bringing edge and gravitas to the album’s more serious moments. “Down the Hall,” for example, finds Raitt exploring a somber register as acoustic guitar and organ gently mingle beneath her voice. She can still rock and wail with the best of them, though, as heard on the achingly bluesy “Blame It on Me” and the arena-ready “Livin’ for the Ones.”

Raitt’s guitar chops are as fine as ever too, and on full display across the LP. Opening track “Made Up Mind,” written and first recorded by Canadian country-rock outfit The Bros. Landreth, serves up tasty slide licks atop soulful vocal harmonies and a groovy beat. “Blame It on Me” showcases Raitt’s understated rhythmic prowess, with a few bendy, bluesy flourishes for good measure. The title track allows space for Raitt’s more melodic playing, and “Waitin’ for You to Blow,” another of the LP’s Raitt originals, is a delightful mix of funky jazz chords, rapid-fire legato runs and creatively employed octaves.

© Marina Chavez

Releasing music isn’t all that Raitt’s been up to in 2022. In March, Billboard honored her as part of its annual Women in Music event, presenting her with the Icon Award. In April, Raitt received the Grammys’ Lifetime Achievement Award, the Recording Academy’s highest honor and one that has in the past gone to such artists as Tina Turner and Emmylou Harris. That same month, her 1989 album Nick of Time, which brought Raitt her first true commercial success, was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

Raitt is currently on a lengthy tour in support of Just Like That…, which stops for back-to-back nights at the Ryman on Thursday and Friday. The array of guests joining her on various dates include Marc Cohn and Mavis Staples, as well as NRBQ, whose “Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart” appears in grooving form on Raitt’s new album. Another icon, Lucinda Williams, will share the stage with Raitt in Nashville.

With an extensive catalog — stacked deep with both chart hits and fan favorites — to draw from, and a stellar live band to bring those songs to life, Raitt’s Ryman shows are sure to be live highlights of this year. Half a century into her dynamic career, she’s reached a status most musicians dream of but few ever reach: a living legend, still deep in her prime.


Source: © Copyright Nashville Scene

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‘60 Songs That Explain the ’90s’: Bonnie Raitt Knows Love (and Heartbreak)

on May 18, 2022 No comments
By Rob Harvilla

Bonnie Raitt has been a lot of things—a blues singer, a rock singer, arguably a jazz singer, occasionally a country singer, and eventually a blockbuster pop singer—and on “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” she pronounced herself the purveyor of a timeless, wrenching classic

Grunge. Wu-Tang Clan. Radiohead. “Wonderwall.” The music of the ’90s was as exciting as it was diverse. But what does it say about the era—and why does it still matter? 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s is back for 30 more episodes to try to answer those questions. Join Ringer music writer and ’90s survivor Rob Harvilla as he treks through the soundtrack of his youth, one song (and embarrassing anecdote) at a time. Follow and listen for free exclusively on Spotify. In Episode 63 of 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s—yep, you read that right—we’re breaking down Bonnie Raitt’s timeless “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

Bonnie Raitt was born in Burbank, California, in 1949. She put out her first album, called Bonnie Raitt, in 1971, when she was 21 years old. Then she put out eight more records. Let’s call this Phase 1. But right from the very beginning of Phase 1, boy could Bonnie Raitt sing the bejesus out of the word love.

But you can’t sing the bejesus out of the word love like that if love hasn’t already kicked your ass a whole bunch of times.

That’s from her debut album. It’s an old blues ballad called “Since I Fell for You.” It rules. You know the song “Get Yourself Another Fool” by Sam Cooke? On Sam Cooke’s Night Beat record. Look into that one. Unbelievable. At 21 years old Bonnie’s already starting to operate on that level of poise and gravitas and pathos. Phase 1 of Bonnie Raitt comprises nine records in 15 years. No huge blockbuster chart-topping albums. No breakout singles. Just a steady and healthy and for quite a while a sustainable career bolstered by the fact that one day she’d write a song—it’s the last song actually on her 10th album, which will formally kick off Phase 2—called “The Road’s My Middle Name.”

Bonnie “The Road” Raitt. Put out solid records and tour your ass off. That’s Bonnie’s foundational idea. Another foundational idea: flexibility. She is a blues singer, and a rock singer, and arguably a jazz singer, and occasionally a country singer, and eventually a blockbuster pop singer. But for the first decade and a half, without any outrageous pop success, she enjoys what she’ll later call “a parallel career” to pop in a genre she once described to Stereogum like this: “There’s a format that always plays me, which they’ve called 10 different names over the years.” And then she lists some of those names: roots music. Americana. AOR: Album-oriented rock. She can be folk. She can be folk rock. She can be Southern rock. Honorary Southern rock. Yeesh. Don’t get hung up on any of this. Don’t be like me. Focus on the poise, the gravitas, the pathos, the hard-earned wisdom. Focus on her voice.

This is a song Bonnie wrote called “Nothing Seems to Matter.” Dope “Maggie May” vibes here. It’s on her second album, Give It Up, from 1972, which starts with another song Bonnie wrote called “Give It Up or Let Me Go.” The let me go is crucial. Don’t waste my time is a central theme of Bonnie Raitt’s love songs, notably, but the slightly risque nature of the phrase Give It Up is worth noting as well, I suppose.

If Bonnie Raitt first came to your attention in the late ’80s or early ’90s—which appeared to be the case for millions of people, some of whom were Grammy voters—then it might very well be that your first impression of her was as a 40-year-old veteran rock star on, like, her 11th album. Bonnie was one of this era’s great comeback stories, though she’s joked that calling it a comeback implies that she’d ever been a huge star to begin with. But one of the real joys of doing a Bonnie Raitt deep dive now, of luxuriating in Phase 1, is you get to experience her as a younger, presumably much wilder person, as a 20-something flamethrower in the 1970s trying to drink various old blues legends under the table, and succeeding.

This song’s called “Guilty.” From her third album, Takin’ My Time, in 1973. A melancholy horn section followed Bonnie Raitt everywhere she went for most of the ’70s, just in case she broke into song in the bathroom or something.

I hope she shared the cocaine with the horn section. She probably did. She seems like a super-nice lady. The silver-white streak, in Bonnie’s hair—if you’re like me, you even hear the name Bonnie Raitt and you picture her shrouded in this elegant, roaring campfire of deep red hair, with a silver-white streak in the middle, right? She says that streak started coming in naturally when she was 24, and by 1981 the streak was expanding while the red was fading, so she started dying her hair, but around the streak, to protect it, because as she told Parade magazine once, “I’ve been told it means you’ve been kissed by an angel.” That white streak is a bit on-the-nose, as metaphors go, yes? For a young instant-classic blues singer, for an old soul, for a masterful song interpreter who’d only just hit her mid-20s. It’s like she manifested that streak. Her fourth album, Streetlights, from 1974, that’s the one with her cover of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery.” Holy moley.

Listen, John Prine is John Prine, and I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that anybody can out–John Prine John Prine, but I do think Bonnie Raitt sings these lines with a singularly electrifying sense of exasperation.

So apparently this time out I am disinclined to inundate you with other artists and other songs, for whimsical and discursive purposes, and I am trying to honor my impulse to not indulge my usual whimsical discursive impulses, but it might just be that I got quite entranced by Phase 1 Bonnie Raitt. We might gotta speed this up. Let me briefly direct your attention, though, to her fifth album, from 1975, called Home Plate. First of all, the Home Plate album cover does indeed feature an exuberant Bonnie Raitt sliding into home plate, and I say to you now, with affection, that her sliding form is terrible, like she’s way out in front of home plate, which by the way appears to be shaped incorrectly—the sides are much longer than regulation—and her one leg is way too high, as though she is trying to kick the catcher in the face. Terrible sliding form, great album cover. And perhaps she’s trying to spike the catcher because the catcher is the gentleman to whom she directs the piano-driven heartbroken love song “My First Night Alone Without You.”

Piano-driven heartbroken love songs being somewhat of a Bonnie Raitt specialty, at this point, if you go in for, y’know, foreshadowing. The aching in her head might also be caused by whiskey, or cocaine, or the concussion she received from poorly sliding into home plate.

It’s weird, though, to have zero digressions, isn’t it? Is this too streamlined? Are you familiar with this show? If so, do you feel like you clicked on the wrong thing? You’re right. What about just one other Bonnie Raitt–caliber American icon, with a career running parallel to hers, just for reference, just to see what that double helix looks like? Let’s try this. Another deified singer-songwriter. Another old soul steeped in the blues without getting all pompous and Blueshammer-y about it. Also from California. Born in Pomona. That’s close! Bonnie’s from Burbank. That’s like a 40-minute drive! It probably isn’t. That’s just what Google Maps says. It’s probably like four hours. (My editor chimed in here to say, “Only a madman would do this drive.” There you go. Come to me with all your questions about Los Angeles geography.) Whatever. It doesn’t matter how long the drive is. This is gonna go great.

You recognize that voice? No? Yeah, I don’t blame ya. OK. Look at how well this works, actually. Also born in 1949. He’s less than a month younger than Bonnie Raitt. Also started kicking around in 1971 or so. OK, we’re doing it. This guy. This guy who also appears to be dealing with a “My First Night Alone Without You”–type situation.

The first Tom Waits studio album is called Closing Time, from 1973, he’s sitting at a dimly lit piano looking world-historically pensive and poetic, very similar vibe and lighting scheme to Bonnie Raitt on the cover of her first album, except she’s smiling; if you’re willing to put a bed and a piano in the same room you can imagine that they’re actually sitting in the same room, and Bonnie’s reclined there, somewhat amused, listening to her morose pal Tom pensively plinking at a piano. But let’s not belabor this comparison. This song’s called “Martha.” It’s the single best heartbroken piano ballad of the 1970s. It’s the “I Can’t Make You Love Me” of its era.

To hear the full episode click here, and be sure to follow on Spotify and check back every Wednesday for new episodes on the most important songs of the decade. This excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity and length.


Source: © Copyright The Ringer

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