Bonnie Raitt, the daughter of Broadway star John Raitt and accomplished pianist Marjorie, grew up in Los Angeles in a family of artists and social activists. At age 8, a Christmas gift of a Stella guitar was emblematic. Raitt's ultimate six-string prowess and singing would ultimately land her a major-label deal by 1971. "No one was more surprised than I to get a record contract at 21," she says. "Suddenly my hobby was my career." Bonnie Raitt (1971), her Warner Brothers debut, featured blues classics by Robert Johnson and Sippie Wallace as well as what would become her trademark mix of R&B, rock, originals and contemporary songs by great, usually little known songwriters. It displayed precocious power -- chops the performer had honed in East coast coffeehouses and on the road as she'd joined the vanguard of the folk and blues revival.
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With six albums in seven years, Give it Up, Takin My Time and Home Plate revealed her strengths as an interpreter of great songs (Jackson Browne, Randy Newman, Alan Toussaint, Eric Kaz). Sweet Forgiveness (1977) was a particular highlight, its durability won by years on the road (up to eight months a year), and its accessibility landing Raitt her first charting single, a funky remake of Del Shannon's "Runway." The Glow, Green Light and Nine Lives underscored Raitt's aesthetic achievement throughout the 80's, gathering three Grammy nominations. She also continued to move -to the forefront of artists demonstrating concern about issues such as nuclear power, the war in central America, apartheid (the "Sun City" project), environmental protection as well as Native American women's and human rights.
With a new alliance in 1989 with Capitol Records and producer Don Was came Bonnie's breakthrough, the hugely successful Nick of Time. Garnering four Grammy Awards " she says. "It catapulted the in 1990, including Best Album, "It was like winning the lottery, record to #1 and soon I was off on a whole new tour, this time playing to up to 20,000 a night." With Luck of the Draw and its hits, "Something to Talk About" and "I Can't Make You Love Me," the winning streak continued. '93's Longing in Their Hearts followed with more critical and commercial success and Road Tested, a live tour-de-force double CD and movie, marked the culmination of a career-long dream.
With nine Grammies and 25 years virtually nonstop under her belt, Bonnie decided to take a break and enjoy some of the well-earned rewards of life off the road. Spending time mountain biking, hiking and doing yoga, enjoying family and friends and traveling for fun instead of work brought her a great sense of renewal and purpose. Of course, she never really went too far away, managing to sing and play on numerous friends records (duets with B.B. King, Ruth Brown, guest spots with Keb'Mo, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Bruce Cockburn, and tracks on the tribute records for Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lowell George, and Pete Seeger) and continuing her "day job" -- fundraising, benefits and activism in service to the causes she holds dear.
"For the last nine years, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation has been a labor of love," she says of the organization she helped found to improve the financial condition, recognition and royalty rates of a whole generation of R&B pioneers to whom she feels we owe so much. In 1995, she initiated the Bonnie Raitt Fender Guitar Project with Fender and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to encourage inner city girls to learn to play guitar. Proceeds from the sales of her Signature Guitar help underwrite the effort. ("I'm so glad that I can do something to offer an opportunity for all those kids who don't have access to instruments and lessons like I did," she says). Also active in promoting anti-nuke awareness (the landmark o Nukes recordings of 1981 are being released on CD), specifically the issue of dumping nuclear waste on Native American lands, she continues to do concerts to also protect our ancient growth forests and a woman's right to choose.
Fundamental, then, is the latest chapter in-a career of making changes, both artistic and human. "The thread of justice, of treating each other right, is something I find in both human rights issues and the blues," Raitt comments. "The relationship between men and women -- a basis of most blues -- is the first place you learn about morality. About how to listen and how to stand up.'
Assertively ranging in its grasp of human emotion, Fundamental, gives us the stately weariness of 3ohn Hiatt's "Lover's Will," and the gentle affirmation of "Fearless Love." The heated churning of "Spit of Love" is balanced by the buoyant sweetness of "Round and Round." In "Meet Me Halfway" and "I'm on Your Side," Bonnie looks steady-eyed at the realities of relationships. And a world-beat treasure inspired by the music of Zimbabwean star Oliver Mutukudzi, "One Belief Away,' shines a light on darkness--calling again for the faith to struggle for that elusive, perfect love.
On the upcoming Silver Lining, Capitol recording artist Bonnie Raitt tackles some of her most adventurous material to date while showcasing the trademark strengths that have made her a nine-time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee: her deft blending of blues sensibility with original and contemporary compositions, all characterized by her evocative singing style and eloquent slide guitar playing.
Silver Lining, the 16th album of Bonnie Raitt's career, is named for its achingly hopeful title song composed by David Gray. Bonnie pushes herself to extraordinary limits on her new album, which she feels may be her best so far. Known for finding great Pop/R&B songs and making them her own, for this one she's found two treasures in "I Can't Help You Now" and "Time Of Our Lives," both co-written by Tommy Sims, Gordon Kennedy and Wayne Kirkpatrick, the winning trio responsible for Eric Clapton's #1 hit, "Change the World."
From wrenching love songs ("Wherever You May Be," "Wounded Heart") she shifts gears for a slide guitar shootout with bluesman Roy Rogers on "Gnawin' On It," which they wrote together. "There ain't nobody better blowin' embers on a flame," she tells a lover in the latter, but the line just as aptly describes the way her vocals ignite a song. Bonnie's sexy, sly sense of humor surfaces once more in the self-penned honky-tonk gem "No Gettin' Over You," wherein she itemizes the ways she's tried to forget an old love.
While a formidable writer herself, Bonnie is also known for spotlighting songwriters who haven't yet had widespread exposure. She continues her exploration into African music, covering a song by Zimbabwean artist and Putumayo recording star, Oliver Mtukudzi, with whom she co-wrote a song for her last CD. "Hear Me Lord" has an infectious township vibe propelled by the explosive guitar of Andy Abad (heard most recently on Marc Anthony's Libre album), Bonnie's slide guitar playing and the extraordinary versatility of her touring band.
Equally inspired is "Back Around," which she co-wrote with legendary guitarist and Putumayo recording artist Habib Koit� (of Mali). Joined by members of Koit�'s band, Bamada, the song traces a link from West Africa to the Mississippi delta, forging something altogether new in the process. The contrast these songs provide alongside two of the album's toughest blues numbers, the opening track "Fool's Game" and "Monkey Business," bring the astonishing scope of Bonnie Raitt's career into sharp focus, and reveal why she is one of our most important and treasured musical artists.
Silver Lining was produced by Raitt, Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake, the team who first collaborated on her last record, 1998's Fundamental. This time Bonnie takes the lead. Grounding the record is Bonnie's longtime rhythm section - guitarist George Marinelli, bassist James 'Hutch' Hutchinson and drummer Ricky Fataar. The newest member of the band, legendary New Orleans keyboardist and funkster, Jon Cleary, guests as vocalist as well as contributing two songs on the album.
As Bonnie writes in her liner notes: "This is, above all, a band record. Although Hutch has been with me nearly 20 years, Ricky off and on since '81, and George on Longing In Their Hearts and Road Tested, this particular unit has been together nearly two years. A lot of what makes this record so special is the trench we've dug out on the road...deep and wide."
Silver Lining is scheduled for release on April 9th and will be preceded by the single, "I Can't Help You Now." Bonnie and her band will be touring this spring, with dates to be announced shortly.
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