Where To Start With... Bonnie Raitt
Born in Burbank, California on the eve of the 1950s, Bonnie Raitt cuts something of a unique figure in America’s musical landscape. Although less well-known in the UK, where commercial success often seems to have eluded her, Raitt is nevertheless a universally respected figure among her peers, known almost as much for her long history of political activism as for her prowess as both a singer and a musician.
Regularly cited as one of the best female guitarists of all time – and arguably one of the finest ever slide guitarists, of any gender – Raitt’s extraordinary career has seen her win 11 Grammys (including a lifetime achievement award), become an inductee to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and even earn her own star on Hollywood’s fabled Walk of Fame.
In addition to the 17 studio albums released since her eponymous 1971 debut, Raitt has also chalked up a long list of credits as a session player for the likes of Jackson Browne, The Pointer Sisters and Leon Russell, as well as collaborative releases with such luminaries of the Blues world as John Lee Hooker and B.B. King.
Despite all of this, various twists of fate conspired to limit her own commercial success over the years, particularly in the early part of her career, during which Raitt often toiled in a relative obscurity that seems so out of kilter with her considerable talents it’s tempting to wonder if she was labouring under the malign effects of some sort of curse.
Eventually though, after nine albums of hit-and-miss album sales, Raitt struck gold with her 1989 album Nick of Time, which scored Raitt the first of two Billboard Chart-topping albums - the second arriving with 1994’s Longing in Their Hearts – both of which were produced by Don Was.
Oddly enough, both of those albums were quite a departure from the blues, country and roots-influenced sound that allowed her to flex her skills as a guitarist (although ballads like ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ are certainly showcases for her equally impressive vocal abilities), but in recent years Raitt has finally begun to enjoy some overdue success with a more blues-heavy sound – perhaps none more so than on her most recent outing, 2016’s Dig in Deep, which became only the third of her albums to break into the UK’s Top 40.
Six years on, Raitt is back with her 18th studio album Just Like That…, which makes its arrival in stores this Friday (April 22). Sticking with the self-produced approach that Raitt has taken with her last few albums, working alongside engineer Ryan Freeland, her new LP features 10 new tracks and features her longtime rhythm section of drummer Ricky Fataar and bassist James ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson.
You can find the lyric video for her recent single ‘Made Up Mind’ below, beneath that we’ve picked out five gems from Bonnie Raitt’s extensive back catalogue as a guide for those yet to discover her work…
One of the deep cuts from her 1971 debut album, ‘Thank You’ is certainly one of her debut’s gentler moments but it remains one of Raitt’s most enduring songs and provides a showcase for her unique voice, equal parts silk and grit.
‘Love Me Like a Man’
While Raitt’s early years are peppered with blues gems of all varieties, few of them are as good as this cut from her 1972 LP Give It Up. If nothing else, her guitar work here shows that she’s every bit as comfortable with an acoustic as she is sliding glass over the fretboard of her trademark Stratocaster.
‘I Feel the Same’
Featured on her third album Takin’ My Time, ‘I Feel the Same’ is noting more complicated than a good old fashioned break-up song, but it’s all in the delivery and Raitt’s voice squeezes every last drop of raw pain from the song’s bittersweet lyrics.
‘Angel from Montgomery’
Originally written by John Prine and covered a couple of times before Raitt became the first to enjoy commercial success with her version of the song. ‘Angel from Montgomery’ is perhaps one of the best-known songs in Raitt’s repertoire, even if it wasn’t among her biggest hits, and remains a fixture of her live sets even now.
‘Need You Tonight’
Our final pick is a cover version of the INXS hit featured on Raitt’s most recent album Dig in Deep from 2016, and while the recorded version on the album is every bit as good we’ll leave you instead with this live rendition from Later… with Jools Holland which shows what a a class act she is as a live performer.
Just Like That... is available in hmv stores now - you can also find it here in our online store.