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Veteran musician Bonnie Raitt says the secret to her longevity is staying in the grooves she loves

Blues, rock and roots legend Bonnie Raitt plays Centennial Hall Saturday in support of her latest album, Dig in Deep. Royal Wood is also on the bill.

on June 2, 2017 No comments

By Joe Belanger, The London Free Press


Forty-seven years later and Bonnie Raitt is still rocking.

The 67-year-old blues, rock and roots star whose music, voice and guitar prowess continue to inspire new generations of performers, is at Centennial Hall Saturday with special guest Royal Wood.

Hers is a career bolstered by several hit singles — Something to Talk About, Love Sneakin’ Up on You and the ballad I Can’t Make You Love Me. She can also boast 11 Grammy Awards for her rock, pop, blues and Americana efforts, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Raitt, who has performed on stage with the world’s blues and blues-rock royalty for most of her career, said there’s no secret to her longevity.

“It’s easier to survive if you’re doing roots and blues,” she said in a telephone interview.

“There are talented people in music who have success with one big hit and then can’t repeat it and are known for only one thing. In blues and roots, you sell less but you can last a lot longer and age gracefully. If the music excites you, you keep growing and stay interesting and find new ways of saying things in the grooves you love.”

Her most recent album for which she’s on tour, Dig in Deep released a year ago, topped the Americana charts.

Known for her inspiring and unique treatment of cover tunes, Raitt matches the success of her Grammy-nominated 1997 live recording of the Talking Heads’ Burning Down the House with another riveting cover — the INXS hit Need You Tonight.

“I have loved that song since the first time I heard it,” said Raitt. “I’ve always heard it in my head with slide guitar and a woman singing it. It’s a sexy song and that makes it a lot of fun to play.”

Raitt has long been known for her activism, which began long before her name was heard on radio and before her career catapulted her into stardom with the release of Nick of Time in 1989.

Raitt was a founding member of Musicians United for Safe Energy in 1979 and has long been a supporter of the anti-nuclear movement and other environmental issues. She also appeared in the video of Sun City, the anti-apartheid record written and produced by guitarist Steven Van Zandt, a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and participated in Farm Aid and Amnesty International concerts

Raitt has taken shots at U.S. presidents, including 2004 when she dedicated Your Good Thing (Is About to End) to George W. Bush, which did not prove prophetic. He was re-elected later that year to a second term.

On U.S. President Donald Trump, Raitt pulled no punches.

“Oh, well, it’s a challenge to get out of bed in the morning and find you need time and fortitude to open the newspaper and see what he’s done now,” said Raitt, noting how Trump has inspired widespread activism.

“There are so many more people (politically) active now than ever — people who are watching our regulations and protection for the environment, jobs and a free press threatened. … He’s doing a good job of digging a hole.”

Raitt said it’s important for artists to speak out.

“You should always speak from your soul and your own conscience if you see people starving, or unfairness or a threat to our environment — that comes way before what I do for a living,” Raitt said.

“We have to reflect our culture back to ourselves. We’re the town criers of the arts to rally, inspire and educate. I do feel we have a responsibility if we’re going to take the microphone, although I don’t preach at my shows.”

Not surprisingly, when asked if there’s a song she wished she’d written, she names Randy Newman’s I Think It’s Going To Rain Today, a lament to the disenfranchised poor and homeless.

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Bonnie Raitt charms NAC audience

on June 2, 2017 No comments

Lynn Saxberg, Ottawa Citizen Lynn Saxberg, Ottawa Citizen

Like most touring artists, blues legend Bonnie Raitt has a recent album to promote – the excellent Dig In Deep – but she did a lot more than flaunt a batch of new songs during a wonderful concert at the National Arts Centre on Thursday.

The red-haired singer/guitarist not only paid tribute to her influences, from Little Feat to John Lee Hooker, and rolled out her biggest hits, including Something to Talk About and Thing Called Love, but also celebrated her love of Afropop, dedicating a sparkling Oliver Mtukudz tune to the creators of the public-radio program, Afropop Worldwide, who were apparently in the audience.

It was a wide-ranging and tasty feast of soulful roots music anchored by Raitt’s signature slide-guitar work, as well as the playful interaction between the star and her longtime band members: George Marinelli on electric guitar, Hutch Hutchinson on bass, Ricky Fataar on drums and the great Mike Finnigan on organ.

In her fifth decade of show biz, the 67-year-old Raitt radiated a warm and vibrant personality, clearly enjoying every moment of her time on stage. She demonstrated her consummate professionalism with every lick, but also showed a willingness to play it by ear, so to speak, in not being a slave to her setlist.

“Just because I made the setlist doesn’t mean I follow it,” she quipped. “I feel like shakin’ it up.”

 At one point, she squeezed in the Mose Allison song, Everybody’s Crying Mercy, commenting on the day’s news with a subtle emphasis on the line, “Everybody’s crying peace on earth just as long as we win the war.” Equally powerful was a solo acoustic take on Angel from Montgomery, recast to honour women around the world who don’t have the opportunities we take for granted in North America.

Another impromptu addition came during the encore, in response to a fan’s shouted request for the rarely played Nobody’s Girl, which required a complete retuning of guitars. Although rusty, the rasp of Raitt’s voice gave it an extra shot of poignancy before she rocked the house with a sizzling spin through Talking Heads’ Burning Down The House.

Royal Wood performing at the NAC in Ottawa Ontario Thursday June 1, 2017 © Tony Caldwell / Postmedia Network

As for the songs from her 17th and latest studio album, they were terrific. Unintended Consequences of Love made a lively starting point for the show, while a pair of cover tunes lent a sense of familiarity. Need You Tonight was a funked-up version of the INXS track, and Los Lobos’ Shakin Shakin Shakes crackled with energy. Representing the other end of the musical spectrum was a pair of broken-hearted ballads, What You’re Doin’ To Me, featuring Raitt on piano, and the mournful I Knew.

Boomer-aged fans made up the bulk of the close to sold-out audience, happy to shower Raitt with applause. When the activist-minded artist noted that Canada is looking ‘awful good’ to Americans these days, there was a cheer of encouragement. If this Grammy winner ever decided to move north, she’d be welcomed with open arms.

Ontario singer-songwriter Royal Wood had the good fortune to land the opening slot on Raitt’s Canadian excursion. Accompanied by musicians on bass and guitar, the handsome singer rose to the occasion with a well-paced set that showed off his sturdy voice and earnest balladry, plus a self-deprecating sense of humour that charmed the crowd. One highlight was his respectful cover of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love; in front of a grey-haired demographic, you can’t go wrong with Dylan.

Source: © Copyright Ottawa Citizen

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Bonnie Raitt: Queen of Bottleneck Guitar (and run-on sentences)

Bonnie Raitt plays the Centre in the Square in Kitchener June 7.

on June 2, 2017 No comments
By Joel Rubinoff

Waterloo Region Record

© Marina Chavez

She’s as down-to-earth and humble as you might imagine, as thoughtful and intelligent as the blues-roots-rock hybrid she’s been playing for almost 50 years.

But the most distinctive thing about Bonnie Raitt is that she talks in long, mellifluous, perfectly parsed run-on sentences — without any periods.

“I wouldn’t call it an overnight success,” she responds when I ask how it felt to become a superstar at 40 with her 1989 Grammy-winning album, “Nick of Time.”

“I’d had nine albums out by then and a strong steady following live and I never was in doubt about having career success … it was just that it catapulted me to No. 1 and million selling sales from winning all those Grammys (three, including the prestigious Album of the Year) in one night, which none of us expected, so it was actually a wonderful boost to an already stable career and came at a time when I was more mature and clear-headed and actually could probably handle it a lot better than a lot of people thrust into that spotlight and pressure in their early 20s.”

See what I mean? Long, rambling exposition that flows like a river, but conveys ideas concisely, cleanly, without extraneous verbiage. Just like her music.

“I never really was concerned with having to chase that brass ring of one hit record after another,” she continues in her easy conversational tone.

“I really had my eye on the long run, so I wasn’t looking for commercial success, just a steady, slow gathering of fans who would stick with me.”

Her record company had other ideas, attempting to position her as a more soulful Linda Ronstadt on her 1977 album “Sweet Forgiveness,” with a bluesy remake of Del Shannon’s early ’60s classic “Runaway” as the kickoff single.

When it failed to set the world on fire, she spent the next dozen years toiling as a critically respected cult figure, barely a dime in her pocket, wondering if perhaps time had passed her by.

But if you’re expecting regrets from Raitt, guess again.

“I think I wasn’t emotionally into being a big superstar or else I would have bent myself into shape and hired a high profile manager and done a certain kind of product,” she notes with the same laid back charm that infuses her music.

“But my music was always kind of rootsy and that kind of stuff doesn’t get played on the radio, so I wasn’t expecting it, but I often wished I had better airplay in the ’70s when my sisters Linda Ronstadt and Maria Muldaur and Emmylou Harris seemed to be getting played, and I didn’t seem to be able to break through, so a little more success would have been great, but I was happy to wait and enjoyed it when I got it.”

Having apprenticed with mature blues legends like Howlin’ Wolf and Sippie Wallace as a young performer, it can be argued the California native — who opted for musical authenticity over the blunt sexuality of her peers — simply hadn’t grown into herself as a performer.

Just as perky pin-up Ronstadt was the perfect artist for the flamboyant, freewheeling ’70s, the reflective, less glammed up Raitt was ideally suited for the more cynical George Bush years.

“It was just my time, as Elvis Costello likes to say,” she philosophizes about her late career rebirth, again without pausing.

“Sometimes you get a shot and you’re not heard from again until 10-15 years later and you make a ‘comeback’, but actually you can be making great music the whole time, it’s just not your turn on the wheel.”

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