Nick Bollinger checks a reliably heartfelt set from Bonnie Raitt.
What’s the new Bonnie Raitt album like? The short answer is: like the other Bonnie Raitt albums. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
On the opening track you have heard several Raitt trademarks, even before she sings; the smouldering funk groove that kicks the whole thing off, and that glassy glissando she plays on her electric slide guitar before launching into the vocal. The song, ‘Unintended Consequence Of Love’ – which she wrote with the pianist Jon Cleary – is one of broadly two types of song she has always defaulted to.
The other is a kind of ballad Raitt does almost better than anyone else. The ultimate example might be ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’, the top twenty hit Raitt had in 1991 when after two decades as a cult hero she finally broke through to the mainstream. And while none of the ballads here as good as that one, the weary understatement in Raitt’s voice still lifts Bonnie Bishop’s ‘Undone’ and her own ‘The Ones We Couldn’t Be’ well above the generic, as she sings from inside their lyrics, of regret and wisdom born from hard experience.
The album is called Dig In Deep and for the most part that’s what Raitt does. She and her long-time band (anchored by drummer Ricky Fataar) dig into some dark, earthy grooves and Bonnie certainly mines the hearts of the ballads. But the whole thing is characterised by a kind of risk-averse-ness. There are so many records she hasn’t made before: an album that looks back to her blues roots, perhaps (she learned bottleneck guitar firsthand from ageing delta bluesmen Son House and Fred McDowell), or something with the New Orleans musicians that have had such an influence on her sound. Instead we have a fine record; just one I feel I already knew.
Songs played: Undone, Shakin’ Shakin Shakes, The Ones We Couldn’t Be, The Comin’ Round is Goin’ Through, I Need You Tonight, I Knew, Unintended Consequence of Love.
Dig In Deep is available on Redwing Records.