I haven't bought a new Bonnie Raitt record in a while. I have several, all on vinyl from the seventies and eighties. I enjoy them every time I break them out. This new one has been getting good press, and its been released on vinyl, so I decided to check it out. In the old days you could always count on certain things from a Bonnie Raitt record. Some tasty slide guitar, Bonnie's lovely, expressive, soulfully restrained vocals, an ace backing band- they all showed up consistently. Add to that Raitt's particular ability to choose great songs by a mix of songwriters old and new, and her work is easy to like. I don't know if the ones I never heard in the intervening years kept that recipe going, but this new sure does. It's a peach.
Raitt's band is excellent, with Hutch Hutchinson on bass, Ricky Fataar on drums, George Marinelli's guitar, and especially the organ of Mike Finnigan. To keep things more varied, Joe Henry produces three songs with a different band including the inimitable guitars of Bill Frisell and Greg Liesz. The great Al Anderson writes several songs and guests on several more. There's two Bob Dylan songs. And several choice cuts from some of today's top writers. The cover of Gerry Rafferty's Right Down The Line (to a reggae beat) is surprisingly good.
It's almost perfect. Raitt plays guitar and sings with finesse and restraint throughout. The songwriting is exemplary. Anderson's sad Not Cause I Wanted To is beautiful in Raitt's hands. Dylan's Million Miles is lovely, and Raitt nails it. Randall Bramlett's Used To Rule The World kicks the record off in fine style. Anderson's Split Decision is a fun rocker about a dysfunctional relationship. Only the closing God Only Knows (not Brian Wilson's song, but a new one by Joe Henry) is disappointing, with a sappy lyric and overly simple piano and voice arrangement.
It's a great record, and Raitt proves she's still got it. Her voice is remarkable, and has aged little since her debut in 1971. She's a better singer today, more nuanced, and yet equally emotional. And she gets a few hot leads in on slide, too. Recommended.