New Album by Bonnie Raitt, ‘Slipstream’
There are two ways to carry old practices forward: Preserve or adapt. Both approaches have their ups and downs. Mere preservation can turn something hard, laying on the sheen of authenticity that masks death within. Adaptation can dilute a thing’s essence so thoroughly as to render it unrecognizable.
The most skillful practitioners of a tradition — the blues, for example — swim between these two lanes with a fluidity which belies the thought and effort that makes their work so smooth. Bonnie Raitt has been doing this since 1971, when she emerged as a redheaded hope for a musical style that had already been co-opted by many an overblown classic rocker. With a voice as buttery as grits and a remarkable capacity for playing bottleneck guitar, Raitt quickly earned her place on the dais with forebears like Sippie Wallace and Howlin’ Wolf. But she also had a great pop sense, finding kinship with contemporary songwriters like Jackson Browne.
Fast forward more than four decades, and Raitt still moves forward with grace and substance, showing how the blues remain relevant, both to her personally and in the larger world. Slipstreamis the guitarist and singer’s first release since 2005, inaugurating her label, Redwing. It represents a regrouping after Raitt’s loss of both parents, her brother and her best friend, and was inspired by her own struggle to reclaim the private life she’d given to her music, as well as the larger American crisis of the current recession. Produced mostly by Raitt herself, with four outstanding tracks helmed by master of atmospherics Joe Henry, it’s warmly contemporary, while still strongly rooted in the blues moods and techniques that Raitt has always treasured. READ MORE/LISTEN……