Bonnie Raitt, Slipstream

by: Rudy P.

“Slipstream” is first and foremost the story of an artist returning to her realm after a long dry spell, rediscovering her fountain of inspiration and acquiring the drive to once again practice her craft. Since that artist happens to be Bonnie Raitt, one of America’s most iconic and important musicians, it comes as no surprise that it is an enlightening, hearty listen with a feels-like-home comfortability.

The seven-year gap between “Slipstream” and 2005’s terrific “Souls Alike” is the longest Raitt has taken between studio efforts, understandable since her life in the interim has been fraught with loss – of parents, of brother, of best friend. While that certainly can be read as informing her soul-searching take on Bob Dylan’s masterpiece “Standing in the Doorway” and the aching piano/vocal “God Only Knows,” the album only occasionally dips its toe into the deep end of introspection. In fact, the only tune Raitt co-writes here is the rambunctious, sing-songy “Down to You.”

This is music with a joyful edge, crafted for the simple pleasure of craft (an artist of Raitt’s stature taking such a long gap between records indicates a lack of prioritizing sales or hits) and therefore of great interest to her longtime devotees. It doesn’t have the radio-friendly edge of earlier recordings, and it need not. A few songs have a similar bite, especially at the core of the LP, but listeners on the market for a new Raitt album – and there are more than a few of them – will certainly be pleased.

Randall Bramlett’s “Used to Rule the World” kicks off the album with funky, slamming, kinetic instrumentation. Raitt’s playing is prominent, large and boisterous, firmly establishing that time has not frayed her resolve. Similar can be said of Paul Brady and Michael O’Keefe’s witty, biting “Marriage Made in Hollywood,” which Raitt wraps her voice around with cool, supple assurance, as well as “Right Down the Line” with its Caribbean flourishes and sure-footed percussion.

The meditative, silky “Take My Love With You” and “Not Cause I Wanted To” showcase Raitt’s elegant, quiet passion as a vocalist. The intimate, unobtrusive nature of the recording allows the songs to furrow into the mind and summon repeated listens. This is music that breathes, as the lady behind it surely intended.

With “Slipstream” Raitt resurfaces in radiant, surefooted fashion, confident in her abilities, hungry to record new tunes and hit the road to play them for audiences. After 40 years in the business she retains a disproportionate amount of soul, vigor and longing. Listeners are blessed to have her.

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