Bonnie Raitt’s Silver
Rocking Country Blues By Allison Lewis
Bonnie Raitt’s new album, Silver Lining, is an exciting mixture of blues, rock, and country music at its best. Raitt’s been doing her country-blues thing for thirty years, since the release of her first album, Give It Up, in 1972. Besides her strong, soulful voice, Raitt is the only woman in mainstream rock to be called a guitar virtuoso.
The album’s first single, “I Can’t Help You Now,” came out on radio in late February, and was co-authored by Tommy Sims, Gordon Kennedy, and Wayne Kirkpatrick, who wrote “Change the World” for Eric Clapton. It’s no wonder Raitt gives her guitar such a fresh, convincing Clapton touch in this song. She tears it up and sets the stage for a full, wonderful album. With the help of producers Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake, Silver Lining sounds anything but studio recorded.
In Silver Lining, Raitt takes control of her electric slide guitar. She makes it whine and scream, with a hard-edged feminine appeal. Over this guitar, she sings her blues and rock in a sultry, commanding voice. At times she’s sexy, but mostly she’s loud, melodic, and in control. Her voice and guitar dominate the songs. But it’s not just Raitt. Behind her, there are more brilliant guitars, a Jerry Lee Lewis rock piano, and the jazzy, jumpy drums that keep it all together. Raitt says that, “This is, above all, a band record.”
The amazing band members, adding intensity to Raitt’s electric slide guitar, are James Hutchinson (bass), Ricky Fataar (drums, percussion), George Marinelli (electric and acoustic guitars), and Jon Cleary (keyboard, guitars, mandolin). This incredible group knows how to rock together. They just do it, and it’s obvious from the way they play that they love it. The resulting music is furious and fun.
In “Gnawin On It,” Raitt begins by yelling “Mmm Mmm. Something smells good baby!” in an animated country twang. Behind her, the music pulses with a Little Richard sixties rock sound. The piano races, and Raitt and bluesman Roy Rogers both go at it on slide guitar with lots of fast strumming.
Raitt shows off her jazzy side in “Monkey Business,” featuring Jon Cleary, the keyboard player, singing a deep blues duet with Raitt. Their skillful voices interact with happiness, humor, and a little rhythm and blues. The song also features an intense, funky baritone saxophone solo by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. I can imagine some fat, suited man in dark sunglasses playing this solo violently and red-faced in a nightclub.
Most of the songs on Silver Lining are jammed with energy. You’ll find it hard to stop bobbing your head up and down, or tapping your foot, or trying to sing like Raitt with your imaginary electric guitar.
At times, she slows the pace, becomes a bit serious, and takes her words more to heart. The music remains strong but reveals Raitt’s softer side. For instance, in “Wounded Heart,” she sings beautifully and tenderly to a simple, walking piano tune.
But personally, I like the faster, happier songs better because she sounds like she’s having such a good time with them. The music gives the feeling of being in a lively steakhouse with friends, drinking beer, eating peanuts, and dropping the shells on the floor. Bonnie Raitt is in the background with her dancing band, rocking out some country blues. Everyone puts on his cowboy hat and starts swinging or line dancing.
Bonnie Raitt’s new album just moves, and makes us move, too. The music is alive and the lyrics are catchy. Silver Lining is a fun, fun album and a real good time.