All posts tagged americana

Bonnie Raitt

on February 11, 2020 No comments
By uDiscover Team

American country blues singer-songwriter Bonnie Lynn Raitt has been making high-class music across five decades, amassing a host of awards and selling albums to a constantly growing band of followers who adore her gritty lyrics, superb guitar playing and lived-in voice.

Hard to believe but the excellent American country blues singer-songwriter Bonnie Lynn Raitt has been making high-class music across five decades, amassing a host of awards and selling albums to a constantly growing band of followers who adore her gritty lyrics, superb guitar playing and lived-in voice.

Hailing from the heart of Burbank, California Bonnie Raitt has enjoyed many fruitful liaisons with everyone from Little Feat and John Hiatt to Bruce Hornsby, Don Was to John Lee Hooker. Her fans love the fact she’s been through good and bad times and faced up to life and her career with refreshing candour that never borders on self-pity or regret. Without reinventing herself as such Raitt has seen musical trends come around to her way of thinking and is adept at embracing new sounds that suit her style. She is a formidable artist – a force of nature – and she ain’t giving up.

As a young and ardent follower of what would later be called Americana, Bonnie Raitt steeped herself in blues, folk and country-pop from an early age. The daughter of Broadway musical star John Raitt with a piano-playing mother Raitt enjoyed the kind of background where she was encouraged to develop her skills as a bottleneck guitarist – and this at a time when women in the music industry were, if not few and far between, certainly unlikely to be following that particular route. Her early albums brought her into contact with Lowell George and Bill Payne from Little Feat and she was able to communicate with them as an equal. Her early albums won considerable acclaim but sales were slower to materialise. The album Home Plate did cause a ripple however as she went in to bat for her sex and fond mainstream publications like Rolling Stone keen to listen up.

The aptly named Nick of Time arrived at the end of the 1980s and was so acclaimed and sold so well that three Grammy Awards arrived. Such success wasn’t exactly belated but it was long overdue recognition for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Best Rock Vocal Solo and Best Rock Group Vocal performance which Bonnie sent producer Don Was up to collect. Nick of Time has sold over five million copies to date and stands repeated listening today nearly 25 years after it was conceived. Mixing Raitt originals with excellent covers like John Hiatt’s ‘Thing Called Love’ and Bonnie Hayes’ ‘Love Letter’, Nick of Time called on a cast of West Coast stars like Ricky Fataar, Jay Dee Maness, Herbie Hancock and the ever-reliable Graham Nash and David Crosby, as well as Don Was favourites like Sweet Pea Atkinson and Harry Bowens. Three singles emerged that included the title track that became an anthem in 1989 and a rallying cry for women in the industry.

1991’s Luck Of The Draw found Raitt booking into her own form of songwriter’s boot camp. Amazed herself at her newfound stardom and anxious not to mar the moment nor slip into formula she retained Don Was and braced herself for some serious touring to hone the tracks on the album with roadwork rather than developing her studio tan. The trick paid off because Luck Of The Draw surpassed its predecessor and has sold over seven million copies.

This time the catalyst for the main event was a splendid Grammy Award-winning duet with the great Delbert McClinton (backing vocals by Glen Clark) on the Cecil and Linda Womack R&B epic ‘Good Man, Good Woman’, the perfect vehicle for Bonnie and a raw and rough voiced suitor like Delbert. If anything she now got even more favourable reviews and when you hear her take on Paul Brady’s title cut or thrill to the emotional terrain she crosses during ‘Tangled and Dark’ and ‘Come to Me’ you’ll want to join her journey.

Bonnie and Was concentrated again on finding the right specialists. Here you’ll enjoy the magnificent Tower of Power horns, Ian McLagan’s signature organ sound, Kris Kristofferson’s backups and Richard Thompson’s fluent guitar lines. Nothing lucky about this album, it’s a stone classic. Brady was also key to penning the hit single ‘Not the Only One’, which like everything else here hung around the charts for nigh on two years.

While Bonnie held fire for three years before returning to the writing desk with Don Was she was due a period of reflection because while in this phase of her career she was still coming to terms with the pressures of fame over the piece she was up to album number twelve.

In any case Longing in Their Hearts (1994) didn’t disappoint. The album starts with Little Jimmy Scott’s ‘Love Sneakin’ Up On You’ and the strongest possible arrangement this eccentric track warrants helped propel it towards the top of the US charts. Many of the same personnel remained on hand. Benmont Tench from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was a new recruit; Levon Helm arrived to add Band-like gravitas and Was paid special heed to the rhythm and horn sections. Raitt’s UK following, which has always been large and loyal, picked up on the song ‘You’, giving Bonnie a Top 40 hit here while British folk-rock lovers were delighted to hear the lady tackle Richard Thompson’s classic ‘Dimming of the Day’.

The live album Road Tested (a double album plus in the old money) restored Raitt’s status amongst those who might have missed her brilliantly conceived shows. The thing to remember here is that while album sales certainly kicked Raitt towards a new platform she never lost sight of her roots.

While live albums are often viewed as an adjunct to the main meal that isn’t the case here. Road Tested is an extraordinary document and remains completely underrated. Consider that Bonnie takes on the Talking Heads in ‘Burning Down The House’ and grabs the funky groove with panache, then contrast that with her version of John Prine’s lush ‘Angel from Montgomery’ or the Crusaders’ ‘Never Make Your Move Too Soon’. This isn’t sitting back and soaking up the applause stuff, this is deliberately cutting edge, sharp and challenging fare that nods back to her hero Mississippi Fred McDowell and also embraces newer blues guys like Chris Smither. Special mention too for Raitt’s long-time rhythm section – drummer Ricky Fataar – the erstwhile Beach Boy– and bassist James ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson – also pianist Bruce Hornsby who popped up on several key dates of Bonnie’s US tour.

Now generally when an artist completes a cycle of meritorious work with a neatly career-defining live album set harsher critics tend to move off and look for the next big thing but in the case of Fundamental, Bonnie’s last album of the last millennium, the smart money rallied behind her even though she’s split from Don Was and called in the super tag team of Tchad Blake and Mitchell Froom. It was time for a change – no one wants to stay still and Raitt doesn’t on this tight and treasured disc. Her penchant for a John Hiatt tune is a constant though and his clever, wordplay packed ‘Lover’s Will’ grounds the album at heart and provides a smart element of soul. Blues, Tex Mex, border ballads and straight in your face Delta nuggets flood about as the artist confronts the ageing up process and the perils of relationships in the hard-hitting ‘Spit of Love’ and ‘I’m On Your Side’.

Four years on and we’re proud to offer up Silver Lining. This diverse set mixes African gospel chorale, talking drums and a slew of new sounds brought to the table by Raitt’s collaborator Jon Cleary who writes, duets and propels the melodies on a staggering array of Moogs, clavinets and Wurlitzer. The keyboard is the instrumental centre of this album but the variety of colours is enhanced by tuba, gut-string guitar, balafon and loops. It’s Bonnie’s most deliberately ‘modern’ album but she wins the right to tackle something new by virtue of the strength of writing and performance.

Souls Alike continues to mine that more progressive vein although country lovers will recognise names like Lee Clayton, Randall Bramblett and Wayne Kirkpatrick cropping up in the credits. Bonnie cuts back here and après the sound to a more basic approach that highlights her ever-improving voice, her acoustic guitar abilities and some startling slide licks.

Throughout this period Bonnie continues to garner awards, Grammy gongs flowed for Luck Of The Draw and the nominations never dried up. To take the overview on this fine life and career then we suggest The Best of Bonnie Raitt: On Capitol 1989-2003, an 18-string marvel that fills in all the essentials and should whet the appetite for some seriously deep mining.

We should also mention that Ms Bonnie Raitt hasn’t confined herself to music alone, or even made any big deal about her role in upping the ante for women in her field – that’s not really her style. But she is synonymous with some important movements – not least of which is her part in The No Nukes effort. A confirmed environmentalist from the off – long before the albums cited here in fact – Bonnie Raitt is a formidable force. She’s an adult in a business that can be frivolous. Not to say she’s any kind of proselytiser. She is a sterling artist. She’s Bonnie Raitt, ’nuff said.

Words: Max Bell

Source: © Copyright uDiscoverMusic

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Bonnie Raitt: The Metro interview
We spoke with the legendary musician ahead of her show at MSG this week with Mark Knopfler.

on September 23, 2019 No comments
By Pat King

Bonnie Raitt understands that she has been running herself pretty thin these days. In the time since releasing her last album, “Dig in Deep,” in 2016, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, legendary songwriter and singular guitarist has been out on the road with her band for a nearly four-year tour with only a few breaks in between. This busy schedule will culminate with a huge show this Wednesday, Sept. 25, at Madison Square Garden opening for Mark Knopfler. A perfect way to go out with a bang before a much-needed break. I recently spoke with Raitt to discuss her balance of life on and off the road, her hopes for the next generation of young musicians, and her dedication to fighting for environmental justice.

I can’t wait to see the next crop blow me out of the water. I make it sound like I’m being competitive. But occasionally, I’ll see a young woman who will come up to me and say, ‘You better watch your back’

Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt © Marina Chavez

You have been on the road for the better part of the past four years. How has touring been?

Bonnie Raitt: Luckily, if I didn’t really love this lifestyle I would have had to give it up a long time ago. So you not only adjust, but I really look forward to getting out on the road. Some balance it better than others. Being a woman and being a daughter of someone who was on the road as well for many years, I try to pay attention to letting people have time at home with their families and keeping the home fires burning. Because when there’s too many broken house repairs, broken relationships, missed holidays with your family and all that — it takes its toll. It’s been really fun. We did two years for my last album, which, we usually do a three-month theater tour followed by two or three months outdoors, double billing with somebody. Then follow into the fall and go into the next year and hit the cities we didn’t do. Then Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. Somewhere in there, we usually do a couple of trips to Europe and maybe even do another summer outside [tour]. The two-year [tour] is pretty normal. Again, it’s got breaks in the middle. Otherwise, we’d drive each other crazy. And you have to stay out of the market, to make the fans really want to see you again. The fun part about having new songs to play is that it freshens it up for us, too. But I added two more years to this [stretch] with James Taylor offering us to come and tour with him. So we basically stretched out 2018 and 2019 with the James Taylor stuff. Then, the Willie Outlaw Festival was tagged on to the front of me wanting to do Farm Aid again. Then Mark [Knopfler] I think heard our band was still out on the road. So we’re wrapping up a four-year tour at Madison Square Garden opening for one of my favorite people.

There is a new crop of young roots and Americana musicians who owe a great deal to the genre-bending and elastic work you have done for years. Does the current musical landscape give you hope for the future of roots and blues music?

Bonnie Raitt: Well, I never really lost that hope because every decade there have been incredible new musicians. The internet has been a blessing and a curse in terms of digital delivery and people wanting music for free, which isn’t really so great for the artists. Or at least at rates that don’t really compensate the extent of the amount of creativity and work that was put in. We don’t have a seat at the table to decide the rates for a lot of streaming and YouTube and stuff like that. I am really thrilled that the internet allows people to check out who their influences were. They might hear an artist that they love and then they’ll immediately get to read on their website… It used to be more limited access to how we could talk about who influenced us and who we’re enjoying now. It’s instantaneous now. You can tweet about a band that you saw last night or someone will let you know that they just listened to one of your records for the first time. It’s instantaneous and the access to this great historical footage as well as global music and studying to roots of blues. You can get Malyan guitar players from the 1930s and suddenly you can see them on video. So it’s been really exciting for me to see this new crop of, as you say, elastic and eclectic musicians that really understand how to keep these roots traditions going. Then cross-pollinating in the way that Little Feat, Ry Cooder and Paul Simon were for me pioneers in mixing genres. Little Feat and myself, there was never really a home for us on the charts until FM radio, AAA and college stations, you know. When the Americana format started, it really gave an umbrella to multi-generations and multi-genres of music in a way that was never really as legitimized as it is now.

You mentioned the shift in the music industry toward more instantaneous platforms with less of a guarantee of fair compensation. How has that been running your own record label, Red Wing Records?

Bonnie Raitt: It’s better because we get to negotiate a little bit more. But the overall fight for artists’ rights and participation and royalties, that has not been figured out. There have been a lot of strong activists positioned in Washington and there has been some legislation that has come around. But we really have a long way to go in terms of copyrights and ownership. You have to hand it to Taylor Swift in doing what she did, asking for the other artists on Universal to get an improved rate as well as her. We just have to bond together and try to get fair compensation. Otherwise, there’s a lot of people who work on records and promotion who are suffering as well. Thank God I got my foot in the door where I can play live and make a living and support a pretty big-sized band and crew. There are other people starting up for whom clubs are closing or just turning to electronic music. It’s cheaper to just play a CD over the sound system and have a dance night with a DJ than it is to have live music. Having said that, if you open any alternative paper or website for most cities that we tour, there are 20 to 30 bands playing all the time in and out of the week. Whether they’re getting paid or people are buying their CDs, I don’t know. At least there are people able to make a living.

There was a recent study, conducted by Fender, that found 50 percent of people buying their guitars are younger girls. As the first female to ever receive a signature guitar from Fender, that must be amazing to see.

Bonnie Raitt: That’s the best news I’ve heard in weeks! I didn’t even see that poll. That’s fantastic. It’s really an exciting time for women who play instruments. Between Beyonce and Prince having all-women bands, Jack White … Every time I turn around, somebody went out of their way on late-night TV to hire a woman guitar player in the house band. Felicia [Collins] was with Paul Shaffer for years. It’s really exciting to see the explosion and appetite for young women. … Being a guitarist, I was thrilled to be able to open 40 new clubs for the Boys and Girls Guitar Club I started in ’95. We are up and running in over 200 cities. The Dixie Chicks cut one of my songs and I donated the profits from that as well as a guitar to opening programs for kids after school. I was really happy that Fender partnered with me on that. The appetite for country music and Americana and just being a badass on the guitar is really encouraging [laughs]. I can’t wait to see the next crop blow me out of the water. I make it sound like I’m being competitive. But occasionally, I’ll see a young woman who will come up to me and say, “You better watch your back.”

You have been such a champion for environmental justice and social change for years. With the horrific burning of the rainforest, you will be playing REVEL in the Rainforest, a benefit event for Rainforest Action Network in early October. How should artists and public figures such as yourself be leading by example, given this current crisis?

Bonnie Raitt: I come from a tradition, being a Quaker and growing up with the civil rights movement and the “Ban the Bomb” movements all coming throughout my teenage years. The music of Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, the forming of the anti-war movement of the ’60s and the feminist movement. It wasn’t even a question of whether or not the music was going to be relevant to the social movements of the day. So, all through the ’70s, even though I don’t do overtly political songs, war songs or environmental songs, I thought it was my obligation to try to be the town crier and raise funds and attention for all kinds of causes. That has stayed with me since I started playing and was lucky enough to have people want to come and see me. So I feel obliged to share my good fortune as well as use my microphone responsibly. … There are tremendous opportunities to use the connection provided by the internet, and live possibilities for raising money and education. Like what we did with “No Nukes” [benefit from 1979]. We used a rally and five nights of concerts and put in speeches and little films about nuclear power within the performances. I’m hoping there will be more and more organized musical performances, combined with the internet and live broadcasts in theaters, as a way of fundraising and educating. I hope that will be more of what’s going on. With the explosion of disaster relief, like the Bahamas with devastating flooding and fire impact, we’re just going to have to do more fundraising all the time. For anybody that’s not actively involved in promoting climate solutions, they said years ago, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. It’s time to wake up. At the very least, educate yourself and vote. I think artists, and our citizens as well, just have to bond together. I salute any movements for people to do concerts to bring more attention.

Listen to “Dig In Deep” by Bonnie Raitt below…

Source: © Copyright Metro But wait, there's more!