New Release (Redwing)
At her best, Bonnie Raitt pulls off the neat trick of making soul-baring singer/songwriter albums without actually writing the songs. Her first album in seven years finds her on a new label (her own), with a new producer (Joe Henry, for once not making everything too somber), but otherwise staying in her comfort zone, which isn’t a bad place to be. She still favors grown-up relationship songs that take all the rough spots into account, doing half as lively R&B and the rest as gospel-ish ballads. The two Dylan songs (both drawn from Time Out of Mind) fit the hard-won love theme perfectly; the one song that doesn’t is “Marriage Made in Hollywood” whose too-obvious commentary makes it skippable. But Henry’s smart enough to realize one obvious thing that most of her producers have missed: Raitt is a hell of a guitar player. So he lets her stretch out far more than usual (“Ain’t Gonna Let You Go” has a jam coda that sounds spontaneous), and the extra touch of raunch lifts this above her norm.
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