Smokey Robinson once said that most firmly established artists tend to roll right along in their careers. And that in short describes Bonnie Raitt all over. Her entire career,now going for over forty years has gone through many peaks and valleys. She took one pause in the 80's to overcome substance abuse problems. Than came back far more popular than she ever had been. Activism slowed her output again. Than ailing family members. And here she is in 2012 and back as if none of these obstacles never occurred. In all those cases,however her intentions were definitely in the right place. She's tended to act for the betterment of herself and others. And each time she re-emerges musically,her audience is very happy to hear what she has to say. She's entered into a world with a lot of new faces and the loss of a lot of old ones. Michael Jackson,Whitney Houston,James Brown,John Lee Hooker and dozens upon dozens of people from either her generation or the one before are now gone. And artists such as Susan Tedeschi have emerged very obviously influenced by her artistry. So what can an old musical hand such as Bonnie do?What she's done all of her career. Make some great music the way she does best.
What is this album? Lots of blues,lots of soul and just...well lots of Bonnie Raitt. Each time she makes new music,her sound is just a little better oiled. And that's amazing because she was pretty well established by the end of the 1970's too. She starts out with "Used To Rule The World",one of her great funky type numbers where she muses on how soul music and the artists who make it have begun to dessert us while things move too fast and others are taking their place. There are a couple tunes here that are extremely hit worthy even today. "Take My Love With You" is a lovely,melodic folk/soul type song that Bonnie has proved wonderful with. One of my own favorites is the witty "Marriage Made In Hollywood",kind of a slick uptempo soul/pop tune about selfish behavior and the "celebrities as news/war as entertainment" culture that's still prevalent since her last release. Goes well with some of her activism too. She also takes on some clever interpretations such as her reggae flavored take on Gerry Rafferty's "Right On Down The Line" and Bob Dylan's "Million Miles" and "Standing In The Doorway"..which are very much in the vein of the originals for the most part. She also takes on Loudon Wainright's "You Can't Fail Me Now",again capturing the spirit of the original fairly well.
The album is otherwise composed mostly of soft,soulful ballad type blues such as "Down To You","Ain't Gonna Let You Go" and "God Only Knows",all with her usual reflection and whole hearted feelings. The main break comes in the form of the tougher rocking "Split Decision",in which she compares a bar room brawl with a lover to a boxing match. After all this time Bonnie is still doing what she does best very well. And that's an open ended,soulful sound that's rooted in blues but views that form as something elastic and not as a rut. She takes her rootedness and does a lot with it. That makes for the best blues,the best rock,the best soul...well pretty much the best any kind of music one can dish out. Frankly I am happy she's taken some time between releases rather than churn out a new record once every year or two. She's had a long road. Even between other albums. And this one,while no different is special to me because...I must admit it's the first Bonnie Raitt album I've had the pleasure of buying brand new. There's something about experiencing good new music when it comes out that makes you feel a little refreshed. And this is exactly the kind of "new music" that works best. Because it's at the artists discretion. And what you'll hear in this music is extremely likable.
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