Bonnie Raitt is one of the brightest spirits in our often too dark world. I remember seeing her in concert in a 200 seat hall long before she was so well known and she poured her heart and soul into that show. She sang, she played, and she ran that slide like there was no tomorrow.
The next time she came through my town, it was a 1200 seat hall and there wasn’t an empty seat to be found. From then on it was the biggest venues, and she still plays her heart out like she did in that tiny hole in the wall all those years ago.
Her latest album, DIG IN DEEP, is a deeply personal journey that she has been on for some time following the passing of her parents and older brother. Coming out of that personal tragedy was the album Slipstream, which helped her focus getting the truth of her life into her music.
Raitt wrote or co-wrote five of the even dozen songs on the album. But Raitt has an amazing ability to take songs that were written for others and make them sound as if they were specifically written for her. Without a doubt, her guitar is a way for her to channel her emotions as much as her voice does.
Surrounded by some of her most trusted friends, her core musicians include: George Marinelli on guitar; James “Hutch” Hutchinson on Bass; Ricky Fataar on drums; and Mike Finnigan on keys. Special guests include: Jon Cleary piano and backing vocals; Arnold McCuller backing vocals; Maia Sharp backing vocals; Joe Henry acoustic guitar; Bill Frisell electric guitar; Greg Leisz acoustic guitar; Patrick Warren keyboards; David Pitch upright Bass; and Jay Bellerose drums.
The upbeat jazzy nature of Unintended Consequence Of Love, is underscored by some darker lyrics, but Raitt’s voice is in good form and her guitar sings. It’s a good opening to the album.
Feel people could cover INXS’ Need You Tonight with the power that Raitt does next. She makes the song her own while keeping those driving elements that INXS instilled in the song. She’s turned it into more of a blues song with a funky rhythm.
Next is the more mainstream I Knew which harkens back to some of work from the ‘90’s. It’s a song with a nice easy feel to it. And some very tasty slide work by Ms. Raitt.
The next song is All Alone With Something To Say, a ballad that puts her vocals in front of a scaled down sound. The song is quiet and very powerful. How often have we all felt small in that still space of our mind? This is the dialogue that ensues.
Fataar’s drums lead us in to the upbeat tempo of What You’re Doin’ To Me, but the lyrics tell a different story. This is one Raitt wrote and the words are powerful and Finnigan’s Hammond B-3 takes a nice lead.
The Los Lobos song Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes is next and its raucous flavor has not been toned down in the least. This is a jump up and boogie number from beginning to end. This is a great song and one that will be a good rocking number live.
The beautiful song Undone follows with its feeling of pain and regret. Utilizing electric piano and vocals to take us into the song, we are enraptured by the simplicity of the number. The band slowly enters the song as her voice swells. Gorgeous.
Raitt co-wrote If You Need Somebody, and it’s got a real funky sound to it. And the message isn’t so bad either. It’s good to know that there is someone waiting to pick us up when we fall – if only we would open up our damn eyes!
The next song is so quintessentially Bonnie Raitt, that it’s hard to believe she didn’t write Gypsy In Me. From that outstanding slide guitar and those throaty vocals and that outstanding hook, it’s a terrific song and is sure to be one of her most requested.
Raitt did co-write The Comin’ Round Is Going Through, and you can hear her frustrations with certain types of politicians. She’s not alone, so many people are frustrated by the way they have been treated, and these kind of messages help others understand that frustration. And it’s got a good dance beat…
Raitt worked with another line up for You’ve Changed My Mind, and the effect is ethereal. The song is a different tone than the previous songs on the album. It’s a late night torch song that touches the heart and brings a tear to your eye.
She wrote the final song on the album, The Ones We Couldn’t Be. The song continues the flavor of the previous with just her vocals and piano and Warren’s keyboards. The song is pure emotion and the kind of intensely personal numbers that makes you reflect on the artist’s courage in just presenting it. For most of us, there seems to be no way to express our emotions in such a powerful way – that’s why we must find those artists who come closest to expressing them for us. This is a beautiful song and a perfect ending to this great album.
It’s safe to say that I’ve been a fan of Bonnie Raitt since I saw her in that dark beer scented dive all those years ago. I’ve been a fan of her talent and her passion, and since that time I’ve watched her grow as a performer. As any true artist should, she’s taken a lot of chances and some have been more successful than others. At her core however, she has been true to her own sense of music as a form of discovery and healing.
In a recent interview with Billboard Magazine Raitt talked briefly about her belief that music can change the world, and I have to agree with that statement. But my caveat is that music changes the world one person at a time, and it starts with the artist who is creating the music. Bonnie Raitt has changed the world for the better by using the music to change and heal herself.
Now it’s time for us to DIG IN DEEP.