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LPs from the Attic: Bonnie Raitt — Bonnie Raitt

May 2, 2011

Bonnie Raitt — Bonnie Raitt (Warner Records, 1971)

Many of us–myself included–didn’t know who Bonnie Raitt was until she added commercial success and a much higher profile to her existing critical acclaim after 1989’s Nick of Time, with its then-ubiquitous single “Something to Talk About.” Even then, although the song is solidly written and very catchy (as is the album), it might have been too easy to lump her in with all the overproduced, shamefully slight mainstream country at the time.

That’s an error of judgement that was quickly reversed when I discovered her self-titled debut album from 1971. Bonnie Raitt is an incredibly satisfying and attractively understated gem of a record, steeped in folk, blues, R&B, and laid-back country-inflected rock, with a subtle twist of New Orleans jazz for good measure. Raitt’s vocals are assured, but never overwrought, and the production does exactly what it should and no more: showcase the warmth and spirit of the musicians and the material with no flashy adornment. There’s not a trace of fussiness present on Nick of Time; this allows Raitt’s considerable gifts as an interpreter of songs–and especially a top-shelf slide guitarist–to shine through.

If Nick of Time was a saving throw for mass popularity and a well-fashioned (if overdone) attempt at a comeback in the context of the 80’s country charts, I would love to see Raitt come back to this lively, rootsy sound and move away from the successful-but-less-engaging template she’s worked off of since then. Stripping away all the studio embellishments reveals a whole lot of substance that needs to shiny resurfacing.

Recommended listening:

  • Bluebird (cover of Buffalo Springfield tune; Raitt makes it a bit more soulful)
  • Mighty Tight Woman
  • Finest Lovin’ Man
  • Walking Blues (can’t top the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s smoking version on 1966’s East-West, but Bonnie’s slide licks are delicious)
  • Women Be Wise
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