Bonnie Raitt - Souls Alike

It is always hard to decipher why some artiste's sell millions of albums and others, even though they can sustain a career for thirty years or more remain in relative obscurity. The latter applies to Bonnie Raitt. Having started her career in the early 1970s playing the Californian folk and blues circuit she made a series of albums for Warners which contained a variety of musical styles. Being an accomplished blues slide player she was able to cover songs by bluesmen like Mississippi Fred McDowell while on the same albums giving exposure to songs by then contemporary songwriters like Jackson Browne, John Price or Randy Newman and taking in one or two sixties soul covers along the way. Embellish such recordings by first class musicians such as Warners label mates Ry Cooder or members of Little Feat and you have some of the best American albums of the 1970s. Unfortunately as recession hit the record industry Raitt was dropped by Warners, no doubt to being just a 'cult' act. As she said in a radio interview a few years ago she was in good company as Van Morrison was also included in the cull.

After several years of personal problems including alcoholism and weight gain, Raitt pulled herself together and was signed to EMI and delivered the "Nick Of Time" album which unexpectedly became a number one album and a multi-million seller - one in the eye for Warners, who needless to say, promptly issued a "Bonnie Raitt - Retrospective".

The new album sees Bonnie giving exposure to unknown songwriters as she has always done. Maia Sharp is the co-composer of three songs. "Crooked Crown" has a circular rhythm, and is quite unlike anything Raitt has recorded before. Sharp also contributes to the albums closer "The Bed I Mad", a jazzy ballad which features an acoustic piano with a backing which is ambient in feel.

British pianist Jon Cleary who is a member of Raitt's band as well as having his own career is responsible for two tracks "Unnecessarily Mercenary" and "Love On One Condition", both tracks having a New Orleans R&B feel, which is where Cleary resides.

Album opener "I Will Not Be Broken" has a Memphis Soul backbeat, the kind Willie Mitchell cooked up for Al Green. That is followed by "God Was In The Water" written by Randall Bramblett and Davis Causey sounding like the swamp rock of Tony Joe White.

Bonnie's exquisite slide guitar playing is featured on every track, even "Deep Water" which features contemporary urban R&B production techniques and the gentle "So Close" which still gets a funky backing. "Two Lights In The Nighttime" sounds like Bonnie's Warner label mates Little Feat.

After a recording career of thirty years or more this album stands up with the best of her albums and it is reassuring she is not prepared to compromise her style to reach a mass audience.

Derek McCann

Click here to leave your Bonnie Raitt comments on the Message Board
(NB: The message board opens in a new window so please disable your pop-up blocker to view)