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Album ReCue – Bonnie Raitt: 1971

on March 1, 2021 No comments
by Laura Fedele

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Leading up to WFUV’s 1971 Throwback Thursday on March 25 — dedicated to albums celebrating their 50th anniversary this year — all month on “Album ReCue” we’ll be taking a deep dive into some of the ’71 releases that mean the most to our weekday FUV hosts. Above, an archive of Alisa Ali‘s conversation with Corny O’Connell about his selection, Bonnie Raitt‘s self-titled 1971 debut album, and below, Laura Fedele‘s overview of that release. 

Back before the 10 Grammy awards and the guitar-god accolades, Bonnie Raitt was a California kid from a musical family who couldn’t wait to grow up and join the activist Greenwich Village folk scene. Once she got there, after her college years in Cambridge, her natural singing style and skill with the slide guitar quickly separated her from the pack, and she scored a major label deal before she was 21.

She chose her signature instrument over the folky acoustic because of the sustain, Raitt says: “the electric guitar, for me, has the raunch and the beauty that more openly reflects the range of emotions I want to get when I’m singing and playing.” Plus, it made it easy to sit in with a wide variety of players and styles: “It doesn’t matter whether you know all the chords if you know your way around with a slide.”

That easy way with a jam is already in full form on her debut album, Bonnie Raitt, recorded in live sessions at an empty Minnesota summer camp. A collection of eclectic old favorites and a couple of her own tunes, each song starts out in a new direction — a rolling blues, a lilting ballad — then each one builds in its own way to a rollicking peak. You can feel the camaraderie of the band members as they move in and out of the music, like party guests gliding through the kitchen, with Raitt at the center, driving it all forward.

Stephen Stills’s “Bluebird” kicks it off, in country-blues style, Raitt’s voice gently soaring over a harmonic vocal chorus. Her own “Thank You” is the first we hear of a future career of sweet and sultry ballads, and her “Finest Lovin’ Man” gets a honky-tonk vibe from blues legend Junior Wells on the harp, pushing the rhythm forward with every breath.

Raitt’s career has embraced the sounds of rock, Americana and R&B over the years, but her love for the classics never wavers. WFUV morning host Corny O’Connell says, “Bonnie Raitt really got to me on an emotional level on her debut album through her truly authentic interpretation of the blues. She’s renowned for her slide guitar, but it was her laid-back, unaffected singing on standards like ‘Since I Fell for You’ that sealed the deal.”

Her compadres at the camp included a few who’d become longtime collaborators (like Freebo on bass and A.C. Reed on sax), plus Raitt chose two classic Sippie Wallace songs for the album (“Women Be Wise” and “Mighty Tight Woman,” both driven here by John Beach’s New Orleans-style piano), creating a bond that led to them recording and touring together through the ’70s and ’80s.

But the longest relationship in Raitt’s career started even further back than her debut: The first woman with a signature Fender guitar line, her customized Stratocaster (“Brownie”) has been with her for every gig since 1969.

This “Album ReCue” series is part of our 50-year look back at the albums of 1971, including Traffic, Isaac Hayes, and Carly Simon. We’ve also taken a look at Bonnie Raitt’s 1989 Nick of Time album, and at her career as an FUV Essential artist.

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WFUV’s Album ReCue: Bonnie Raitt’s Bonnie Raitt


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Turning The Tables Listening Party: Women Of Roots And Americana

on December 1, 2017 No comments

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Bonnie Raitt still giving them ‘Something To Talk About’

Bonnie Raitt will perform in Hamilton June 6.

on May 27, 2017 No comments
By Graham Rockingham

Back during the height of her career — shortly after she swept the 1990 Grammys with her breakthrough album “Nick of Time” — Bonnie Raitt found herself inundated with demo tapes from aspiring songwriters.

So much so, that Raitt used to position boxes of tapes throughout various places in her house, always near a portable cassette deck.

She had a box in her kitchen, another in her bathroom, each one containing dozens of tapes. Perhaps one would be her next hit.

One day she picked up a cassette from a Canadian singer-songwriter by the name of Shirley Eikhard. Raitt had never heard the name before. She thinks it could have been sitting in the box for a couple of years.

Nonetheless, Raitt plugged the tape into the player.

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There were four songs on it. One of them was called “Something to Talk About.” It would not only be Raitt’s next hit. It would be her biggest, winning her another Grammy for best female vocal performance in 1992.

“All four of the songs just knocked me out,” Raitt says on the phone from her northern California home. “I loved her voice and I thought it was so far and above anybody else’s tape.”

There was no Internet back then, so Raitt had to start making inquiries about this Eikhard person through her record label. Coincidently, Eikhard was signed to the same label as Raitt, Capitol. Eikhard had had some success in Canada, but was an unknown in the United States.

Eikhard had written her phone number on the tape. Raitt decided to call her up and give her a surprise.

“I waited until I recorded the song, to call up the number on the cassette,” Raitt recalls. ‘I said ‘Hey, Shirley, it’s Bonnie Raitt, listen to this.’ I pushed play and played her own song back and hung up the phone. It went over to voice messaging.

“She called us back and couldn’t have been more delighted. The rest is history. That song is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Not long after, Eikhard and Raitt met face to face at a concert. The two have maintained ties since. She would love to see Eikhard at one of her shows on her upcoming cross-Canada tour, which stops at Hamilton’s FirstOntario Concert Hall on Tuesday, June 6.

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