The Rhythm of Bonnie's Blues

Bonnie Raitt credits Aretha Franklin as one of her heroes. Well, Bonnie Raitt is one of mine. And with this summer's release of her 11th recording, Luck of the Draw (marking her own 20th anniversary since Bonnie Raitt came out in 1971), it's safe to say she gets better with time.

Luck of the Draw, a showcase for Raitt's voice and slide guitar, is at least as good as her 1989 release Nick of Time. As something of a comeback album, with significantly more R&B sound than Nine Lives before it, Nick of Time created a following that seemed to confirm Raitt's return to her blues roots -- it won three 1989 Grammy Awards and sold three million copies. Further recognition came that same evening when Raitt and John Lee Hooker won the Best Traditional Blues Grammy for their duet "I'm In the Mood" on Hooker's The Healer.

So this new release is built around a voice that's more confident, that knows its strengths, that's gained perspective. Throughout her career, Raitt has always been noted for her ability to get more out of a song than the songwriter could. She made her first Top 40 hit in 1977 with a cover of "Runaway" (a Del Shannon/Max Crook song) on Sweet Forgiveness, and she's still remembered for her rendition of John Prine's "Angel of Montgomery" (on her 1974 Streetlights recording and again on 1979's No Nukes). She writes some great songs herself, but she's especially adept at fitting others' tunes to her voice -- and the results are often unforgettable.

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