Bonnie’s back, in the ‘Nick of Time’
Twenty-two years ago, Marin county native Bonnie Raitt swept the Grammy Awards with her huge album, “Nick of Time.” After a few more albums in the ‘90s and very early part of this century, she took time off to deal with the deaths of her father (Broadway musical star John Raitt) in 2004, her mother in 2005, and her older brother, who died in 2009. Bonnie decided it was time to unplug from music for a while and just come to terms with her family losses as well take a well-deserved break.
The good news is that Bonnie is back with a great new album, “Slipstream,” her first in seven years, and getting ready to tackle an 80-city tour that starts May 1. The album, for the most part, was produced by Bonnie, with four tracks handled by musician and songwriter Joe Henry who wrote two of the album’s 12 songs, the beautifully soulful “You Can’t Fail Me Now” (co-written with Loudon Wainwright III) and the album’s closer, the poignant “God Only Knows” (not the Beach Boys classic).
For the new disc Bonnie chose an interesting assortment of songs. Included are two Bob Dylan tunes, both from his “Time Out Of Mind” album: “Million Miles” and “Standing in the Doorway.” She does a great job with both, and really makes them her own as well. Also included is a reggae-flavored send up of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line,” the first single release from the package. While most people know Rafferty as perhaps a one-hit wonder with his song “Baker Street,” he actually recorded several incredible albums featuring mostly self-penned songs that were successful in most parts of the world except in the U.S.
The album opens with Randall Bramblett’s “I Used to Rule the World,” where the whole band, long time members George Marinelli, Ricky Fattaar, Hutch Hutchinson and Mike Finnigan, get a chance to stretch out and kick in some pretty hot licks, especially Finnigan’s Hammond organ sounds. The track is the perfect song to open the disc.
Big Al Anderson, who for 22 years played guitar with NRBQ and splits his time between Nashville and his Connecticut home, wrote three songs for the album and plays on four of the tracks. Anderson contributes “Not Cause I Wanted To,” “Ain’t Gonna Let You Go” (which was co-written with Bonnie Bramlett) and “Split Decision” (co-written with Gary Nicholson). These three songs alone are worth the price of admission. Other Nashville songwriters contributing a tune include Gordon Kennedy and Wayne Fitzpatrick (the two co-wrote the Eric Clapton hit “Change The World”) and Kelly Price penned “Take My Love With You,” a soulful tune that would have made a great duet with someone like Michael McDonald, but then, I’m not the producer of this project!
Raitt penned only one song on the album; “Down to You” on which she shared lyric writing duties with Randall Bramblett. George Marinelli provides the musical accompaniment.
Background vocals throughout the project are provided for the most part by Maia Sharp, who did the same on Bonnie’s last album, “Souls Alive.”
Depending upon the song, Bonnie can deliver a vocal with élan such as on “Right Down The Line” or downright sad such as on Dylan’s “Standing in the Doorway,” to which her slide licks sound as equally sorrowful. Bonnie’s slide guitar work, by the way, permeates the entire project, leading the band with her tasty licks. And let’s not forget that the great B.B. King said that Bonnie is his favorite slide guitarist!
After spending years on Warner Bros. Records and Capitol (where she garnered all those Grammies) “Slipstream” is on Bonnie’s own label, Redwing Records, so she gets to call all the shots, and what an incredible job she has done. One of the most listenable discs I have heard in quite some time, it is so good to hear her voice, her guitar and her band once again. Welcome back, Bonnie. Seven years is way too long to be away.
More shows worth talking about: Last week we talked about Kenny Rogers, Johnny Winter and a whole host of others bringing their music to the area. There are a few just announced additions that may be worth noting. On June 27, the Dukes of September Rhythm Review will be “performing together as one band on one stage for one night.” The Dukes of September are Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs. You can only imagine what the backing band will be like! Then on July 20, Sheryl Crow brings her show back this way. Both shows take place at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, with tickets to both shows going on sale tomorrow (Friday, April 20).
Closer to home, The Tonewoods play Murphy’s Irish Pub tonight (April 19) starting at 7:30 p.m. Dan Martin brings his Sonoma reggae style to the Olde Sonoma Public House (also tonight) and also starting at 7:30 p.m. Songwriters in Sonoma takes place at the Meadowcroft Wines tasting room at Cornerstone Sonoma and features three Santa Rosa rockers in an intimate, acoustic format. Performing at 7 p.m. (tonight, April 19) are Guy Henry, Josh Staples and Emily Jane White. The Plaza Bistro has the Anton Schwartz Quartet on Friday, April 20 beginning at 7 p.m. with no cover charge.