You need not be a musician to enjoy Bonnie Raitt’s blues-and-roots rock, but any musical background makes her music even that much more attractive to the ears.
The 66-year-old guitarist has been turning heads ever since her timely gig opening for blues great Mississippi Fred McDowell in 1970. Soon after, word spread like wildfire from a Newsweek reporter who couldn’t get enough. Consequently, Raitt landed a deal with Warner Bros. and released her highly lauded self-titled debut album.
With more accolades than should be allowed in the music industry – Raitt has 10 Grammy Awards – the songstress also landed at No. 50 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and yet again at No. 89 for the publication’s influential 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Respected by her guitar-slinging male peers and singer songwriters alike, her catalog has aged like a fine wine. Accordingly, she is still active recording and touring while still gaining newer fans with semi-regular new releases like “Fundamental,” (1996) “Silver Lining,” (2002) “Souls Alike,” (2005) “Slipstream,” (2012) and her latest record, “Dig In Deep” (2016).
“For those who haven’t checked out her new record, the 12-track “Dig In Deep” came out on Raitt’s own Redwing records (her second on the label) and features both Raitt solo material as well as her own renditions of songs by artists like INXS, T-Bone Burnett, Joseph Lee Henry and Nashville songwriter Pat McLaughlin.
On the album’s opener penned by Cleary and Raitt, "Unintended Consequence of Love,” her band drives home a sticky groove while Bonnie lends her trademark raspy voice to the fray. On the equally compelling and groove-laden "What You're Doin' to Me," both her guitar playing and vocal styling serve to deliver up a can of dance floor whoop ass.
The album charted all over the globe upon release – 45 years after her first offering, no less. Stats include a U.S. Folk Billboard No. 1, a U.S. Blues Billboard No. 1, U.S. Rock Billboard No. 3 and a No. 11 cart position on the U.S. Billboard Top 200 chart.
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, she talked about where she drew inspiration for her inclusion of more Raitt-penned songs than usual.
“I had a decade of a lot of loss,” she said. (Raitt’s mother, father, and brother all died between 2004 and 2009.) “I was depleted, but like when your car runs out of battery and your friend pushes you, I got a push. My guitarist George Marinelli sent me the track, “If You Need Somebody,” and I got the wheels going. I knew I was going to write something about dad, and it was going to be said, so I was glad to break that block.”'
Like any other one of Raitt’s more raucous records, she also includes some guitar-laden numbers which tend to rock a little harder than others.
“We were feeling pretty frisky, I must say. There are a couple of those ballads, but I like to put together a collection the way you would put a show together,” she said. “You don’t want to have people rushing to the doors weeping.”
When pressed for the myriad reasons she’s persevered and lasted in a once largely male-dominated music industry, it would seem the secret’s out.
“I was only interested in doing this if I could continue to grow – find new songs and new combinations of ways to play things. My role models were old R&B and blues artists, like Tony Bennett and my dad; artists who’ve gone into their older years growing richer,” Raitt said. “I’m modeling myself after them. People only get more interesting and deeper as they get older.”
Thankfully, Raitt’s pen is rather prolific. Likewise, she’s got many friends whose songs she can always do great justice to. In particular, do check her cover of INXS’ “Need You Tonight” and Los Lobos’ “Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes.”
“I’m a big INXS fan. I always wanted to slow this down, play a little bit and then stop and (sing), “You’re one of my kind!” It feels as sexy as it sounds. I hope they like our version," Raitt said. “And I just love Los Lobos. The music was hellacious enough where I couldn’t help but find it irresistible. I put it on there just so we would tear it up live.”
Anyone can see what Raitt has been doing successfully for almost a half century. Once more, it’s standout and more popular fare like “Something To Talk About,” "Nick of Time” and "Luck of the Draw" (to name but a few) that make a live show so transcendental.