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Raitt performs at Hill in a blues celebration

on November 4, 1975 No comments

It was Sippie Wallace’s birthday Saturday, and Bonnie Raitt threw a party for her in Hill Auditorium.

By JO MARCOTTY

The entire evening was a blues extravaganza, from Robert Williams to Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, 77-year-old Wallace and culminating in a fine performance by Bonnie Raitt and her four piece band.

By the time she came on stage, the audience was ready for her, and by the time she left they were in love with her —with good reason.

She sang old songs like “I’m a Fool For You Baby,” and new ones like “I’m Blowin’ Away” in her usual clear and effortless style. And it was obvious from the very start that she loved doing it.

“If I could do this every night.” she said near the end of the show, “play with friends for people like you, I’d die doin’ it.”

Her ‘friends’ consisted of Freebo on the fretless bass, Alan Hand on the piano, Dennis Whitted on the drums and Will McFarlane playing electric guitar. And all five of them together were a mesmerizing combination.

They were tight, and played excellent music without loosing their individual styles. But aside from the musical professionalism, there was none. There was an almost tangible, silent communication between them and the audience. It wasn’t just another stop in a concert tour. Bonnie and her band were playing for this particular audience, for Ann Arbor.

© Michael Dobo

But Ann Arbor is a regular stop for Raitt. And on Saturday she reminisced about two of her previous visits here, the 1972 Blues and Jazz Festival and another time during that same year.

“I remember this as being the biggest concert hall I’d ever seen,” she said about Hill.

Raitt’s versatile talents were at their height. She breezed through “Love Me Like a Man,” belting it out like the demanding woman the song describes, and sang John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” with the hopeless, tired tone of an old woman.

Her newer music is still the same combination of blues, and ballad, but nowadays it’s slicker, directed at a wider audience. ‘Funk’ has made a definite appearance, especially around the piano player Alan Hand.

At one point the guitarist, Will McFarlane, went off into a long guitar solo which had clear traces of rock and roll.

But blues is still Raitt’s baby, and when the Wallace, one of grande dame’s of the blues generation sang “Woman Be Wise” with Raitt, it was a startling, but delightful contrast.

Raitt’s voice was young, vibrant, and she sang the words like a know-it-all. Sippie sang it like the wise old lady she is. Her voice was deep, sometimes gravelly, but she sang it with all the power of her 77 years.

“I just hope you see me like that when I’m 77,” Raitt said as Wallace walked slowly off stage leaning on the arm of a young man.

And if Raitt continues in the same vein, we probably will. She’s good. Her singing is excellent. But at the same time she’s different from other female vocalists of equal talent. She has something special, a disarming, engaging stage personality, tremendous wit, (“I’m smiling so hard, it’ll make my dimples bore right through to the back of my head.”) But it goes even beyond that.

Almost no women vocalists get up out of their chairs and play an electric guitar with the style and charisma of a Bruce Springsteen. Almost no women vocalists can stand in front of 3,000 people and tell a friend in the audience to zip up their fly and get away with it. But she did. Raitt is tough, slightly crass and charming, but not cute and sexy. She’s lovely, with her long red hair and freckled face, and sexual, but not cute and sexy. That’s why she’s different. That’s why she’s so likable.

Josephine Marcotty is the feature editor of The Daily’s news department.


Source: © Copyright The Michigan Daily

Daily Photo by KEN FINK

A Celebration…

November 19, 1975

Bonnie Raitt’s singular appeal and strength is in her roots. She reaches all the way back to the classic blueswoman of the Twenties for both her joyful bawdiness and her righteous, don’t-mess-with-me self-assurance, and has come up with a stance as modern as the diaphragm. So it was a rare thrill, not to say a near-miracle, for all concerned that Bonnie could simply turn to the wings and welcome onstage Detroit blueswoman Sippie Wallace, the direct source of much of her inspiration, who, coincidentally, was celebrating her 77th birthday that night.

Bonnie graciously explained later, “It was from Sippie that I first learned this type of song, where I didn’t always have to be on the shaft side of a relationship”, which point of view was potently set out as she kicked into her own “Love Me Like A Man”.

Apparently Bonnie, who is touring nationally with folk poet/drunkard Tom Waits, decided to take full advantage of her Ann Arbor date by arranging with UAC, campus promoters of the affair, to book country bluesman Robert Pete Williams, and Chicago blues artists Buddy Guy and Jr. Wells, in addition to Sippie.
It was an evening of musical entertainment and instruction that easily spanned divers locales, epochs, and idioms, all the while demonstrating the unbroken lineage connecting these artists.

Robert Pete Williams, whose talent was first discovered, or at least first recorded, at the Angola State Prison, played a pleasant, idiosyncratic opening set. The handsome, fiftyish bluesinger eschews the standard 8 or 12-bar forms. He’d sing a line and play his guitar simply and effectively for as long or as short as he felt like. It made for some diverting country music.

Guitarist Buddy Guy and vocalist premier harmonicat Jr. Wells have, in the past 5 years, probably performed their sweaty, boozy more often in Ann Arbor than anywhere else other than their native Chicago. This night the band was relatively subdued, at least visually. Highlights included every solo Buddy took and the band’s performance of Jr.’s greatest hit, “Messin’ With The Kid.”

Bonnie Raitt & Sippie Wallace and Tammy – Hill Auditorium,Ann Arbor,Michigan 1975 © John Rockwood

When Sippie hobbled out (she suffered a bad stroke three years ago) the first thing she did was to improvise a loving tribute to Bonnie on the piano. She then sang a churchy blues, “Loving You The Way I Do,” “Mighty Tight Woman,” and the gospel tune “Stand By Me.” It was all very affecting and the crowd responded with a standing ovation and then sang her “Happy Birthday.”

Bonnie came out with a strong four-man band that was easily able to reproduce her recorded sound, minus the strings, of course (just as well, I say). She was loose and lovely and clearly moved by the affection Ann Arbor showered on her. She wove her spell from familiar material done with her usual passion, including “Everybody Cryin’ Mercy”, “Give It Up Or Let Me Go” (on which she played a beautiful slide guitar solo), “Fool Yourself,” “Angel From Montgomery,” etc.

Sippie came out and she and her protogee muscled their way through “Women Be Wise” and “You’ve Been In Love Too Long,” joined onstage by Sippie’s dancing machine of a granddaughter, Tammy. Everybody was up and rocking – the only way, after all, to end an evening of such energy and inspiration.


Source: © Copyright The Ann Arbor Sun
Ann Arbor Sun – November 19, 1975
Ann Arbor Sun – November 19, 1975

Footnotes

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Bonnie Raitt: Bonnie Raitt

on February 3, 1972 No comments
By Chris Hamel

Bonnie Raitt’s debut album features an unusual collection of songs performed by an unusual assortment of musicians. And Bonnie is something out of the ordinary herself. She has been traveling the blues-festival circuit since 1968, playing the Boston-New York-Philadelphia folk run, since 1970. Now she has done something unusual with her first Warners album.

Willie Murphy and Bonnie Raitt – Insider Magazine, September 1971

In August, Bonnie rented a fishing camp on a Minnesota island, solicited the production services of Willie Murphy, the musical talent of his Bumblebees, and the fourtrack equipment of “Snaker” and Sylvia Ray. Bonnie then enticed Junior Wells and A.C. Reed from Chicago to join her regulars, bassist Freebo and guitarist-folk-singer Peter Bell. The sessions were done in a two-car garage and the product is good: a different album, a representative portrait of this artist.

Bonnie accompanies her folk-blues on a Mississippi National steel guitar. Her slide work is uncommonly good, equal to her straight acoustic stuff — in fact, it is simply among the best. Unfortunately, her ability is not fully captured on this album, because Bonnie’s guitar is not amply showcased — a major fault of the production.

There are two obvious idioms on the album — rock-soul and folk-blues. A third genre consists of three estranged numbers that are joined by the mood of their rendition. In their melancholy tone, these songs are the most consistently pleasing — Paul Seibel’s countrified quickie of an incredible lyric, “Any Day Woman,” “Spider” John Koerner’s rainy-day special, “I Ain’t Blue,” and Bonnie’s simple, personal piano ballad, “Thank You.” On these tunes, Bonnie’s thin, folk-founded voice is properly suited with a minimal amount of backing. Her ability to communicate emotion and involvement is most effective here.

Comparatively, the rock-soul treatments, reminiscent of Rod Stewart’s reworking of “I’m Losing You,” are heavily produced. Bonnie capitalizes on the soulful potential of Steve Stills’ “Bluebird” and the existent groove of a former Marvelettes single, “Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead.” On these songs, the shift in emphasis goes from mood to delivery, and Bonnie succeeds best vocally on “Danger.” There’s an inkling of her electric slide talent there, too, as she weaves around the song, using the slide as an additive agent, not a gimmick. And this is an arrangement where you’d least expect to hear bottleneck. On “Bluebird,” Bonnie’s ability to use musical cliches tastefully is exemplified by the “bum-do-wadda” chorus that is carried in a joyful, respectful vein without the cynicism that so often undercuts such maneuvers.

In keeping with Bonnie’s image and preferences, there are five blues numbers. The selections are rare (Sippie Wallace’s “Women Be Wise,” “Mighty Tight Woman,” and Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road”) traditional (Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues”) and contemporary (Bonnie’s “Finest Lovin’ Man”). Arrangements are consistently good, the music solid. Yet congruent with the proverbial blues predicament, the songs fall short, into a gray area between the other cuts. Combining the elements scattered throughout the album is a bittersweet version of an old Lenny Welch hit, “Since I Fell For You,” and justice is done to it. As Bonnie says, “A.C. [tenor sax] blows his ass off on that one.” Reed, Jimmy’s brother, is the stellar sideman throughout the album. When the back-up occasionally absorbs Bonnie’s role as primary figure, A.C. stands out as most likely successor.

At times, Bonnie is a self-conscious vocalist and the tension in her voice is evident. So are the good times, struggles, exhaustion, creativity caught by this informal, somewhat bizarre recording. The weirdness of the whole affair is best summed up in the sound reproduction. When played on a low quality system at high volume or a high quality box through earphones, the results are best. It wouldn’t be surprising if that was intentional too.

Original 1971 album liner notes

Musicians:

Bonnie Raitt: vocals, acoustic and slide guitar
Junior Wells: harp
A.C. Reed: tenor sax solo
Willie Murphy: piano
Freebo: fretless bass
Peter Bell: electric guitar
Douglas “Toad” Spurgeon: trombone

The Bumblebees

Russell Hagen: electric guitar
Steven Bradley: drums
Voyle Harris: trumpet
Maurice Jacox: baritone sax, flute*
Eugene Hoffman: tenor sax
John Beach: piano
___________________________________________________________

Side One

Bluebird  3:26
(Stephen Stills)

Bonnie, A.C., Peter, Freebo, Steve, Eugene (cowbell), Willie
Background vocals: Bonnie, Peter, Paul Pena (bass), Reeve Little

Mighty Tight Woman  4:19
(Sippie Wallace, arr. John Beach)

Bonnie, John, Freebo, Steve, Junior

Thank You  2:48
(Bonnie Raitt)

Bonnie (piano), Willie (guitar), Freebo, Steve, Maurice*, Voyle

Finest Lovin’ Man  4:41
(Bonnie Raitt)

Bonnie, Junior, Russell, Willie, Freebo, Steve, A.C., Voyle, Eugene, Maurice

Any Day Woman  2:19
(Paul Seibel)

Bonnie, Willie (vocal), Freebo, Steve
___________________________________________________________

Side Two

Big Road  3:31
(Tommy Johnson, arr. Bonnie Raitt)

Bonnie, Peter (acoustic), Junior, Freebo (tuba), Toad, Steve, Willie

Walking Blues  3:35
(Robert Johnson, arr. Bonnie Raitt)

Bonnie, Junior, Peter (hambone)

Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead  2:50
(Ivy Hunter-Clarence Paul-William Stevenson)

Bonnie (electric slide), Willie, Russell, Freebo, Steve, A.C., Eugene, Voyle, Maurice
Background vocals: Bonnie, Peter, Chris Rhodes

Since I Fell For You  3:03
(Bud Johnson)

Bonnie, Willie, Freebo, Steve, Eugene, Voyle, Maurice, Russell, A.C. (sax solo)

I Ain’t Blue  3:35
(John Koerner)

Bonnie, Freebo, Maurice*
Percussion and background vocals: Peter (shingle), Willie (shuttlecock in cup), Steve Raitt (stick on plastic pitcher)

Women Be Wise  4:13
(Sippie Wallace, additional lyrics by John Beach)

Bonnie, John, Voyle (naked), Freebo, Steve
___________________________________________________________

PRODUCED BY WILLIE MURPHY

Engineers: Dave and Sylvia Ray
Remix Engineer: Kendall Pacios
Recorded at Sweet Jane, Ltd. Studios, Minneapolis, August, 1971

Personal Management: Dick Waterman, Avalon Productions

Dedicated to Barnaby Ray
___________________________________________________________

WB WS 1953

© 1971 Warner Bros. Records Inc. (P) 1971 Warner Bros. Records Inc.
Warner Bros. Records Inc., a Subsidiary & Licensee of Warner Bros. Inc., 4000 Warner Blvd., Burbank, Calif. 91505. 44 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022. Made in U.S.A.


Source: © Copyright Rolling Stone

Footnotes

But wait, there's more!