The Good: Moments of voice and guitarwork
The Bad: Lyrically uninspired, Nothing special on the music front, Vocally limited, SHORT!
The Basics: There must be better Bonnie Raitt albums out there; this one could have come from anyone who is trying out country/bluegrass music.
Bonnie Raitt was one of the featured performers at the very first concert I went to an an adult. She was one of the main stage performers at Lilith Fair when I went and her performance was one of the highlights of the evening for me. When she sang "Nick of Time" I was blown away; it was the first time I had actually HEARD that song and I was so impressed. My point to open this review is that I have nothing against Bonnie Raitt (save that back in the 90s, her cover of "Something To Talk About" - reviewed here! - was so overplayed on VH-1 that I came to loathe it). So, when I was looking for a new artist to explore, Bonnie Raitt came to mind and I picked up her debut, Bonnie Raitt.
Bonnie Raitt is an eleven-track album that clocks in at a paltry thirty-seven minutes, forty-four seconds on c.d. This is to be expected as it is remastered from the original 1971 record, which held far less content than the compact disc does. Still, it's disappointing and one might make the argument that most shorter albums should be combined when making the move to c.d. to save space and increase value of the medium. Regardless, Bonnie Raitt makes a lackluster, standard bluegrass/country debut on Bonnie Raitt.
First off, this is not really Bonnie Raitt's musical vision; only two of the songs were written by her and two more were arranged by her. While she plays three different guitars and sings on all the tracks, she did not produce any of the songs. As a result, the album is a series of country/bluegrass standards and covers that is anything but original. Instead, this album falls into the trap of simply embodying the genre and not creating anything distinct and/or new.
What I mean by that is that every track sounds virtually the same; there is a guitar (or several) which starts out the song, Bonnie Raitt comes in to sing a story-song while the drums gently keep time behind her. Out of the first four tracks, three follow this format and Raitt's original composition "Thank You" merely swaps the guitar for a piano. This becomes a rather tired sound over the course of even two listens (I'm up to six as I write this).
Raitt sings, backed by harmonicas also on many tracks, like "Finest Lovin' Man" and often, I found when she was singing in front of a harmonica, the harmonica often upstaged her. On Bonnie Raitt, Raitt is still finding her voice. As a result, it is often sublimated to the instrumentation. On "Any Day Woman," her background vocals even drown her out!
Bonnie Raitt is essentially some of the most generic bluegrass and country music one might expect to hear. Virtually every parody of classic country sounds like something on this album. With lyrics like "Well I ain't goin' down that big, long lonesome road / Pretty baby, don't you hear me talking / No I ain't goin' down that big road by myself" ("Big Road"), Raitt employs many of the conceits of the genre, like ordering her musicians to "play it right" on the same song. My point here is that there is nothing new or original on this album; it's typical and banal. If you can envision a down-home setting with square dancing, you've got the sound and feel of Bonnie Raitt.
The troubling thing is that none of the tracks insinuate the greatness that even I will acknowledge Bonnie Raitt possesses. Instead, this disc simply presents a young performer who is trapped within her range, her genre and the few chords she plays on her guitar. None of the tracks stand out, as a result, and it's hard to find anything worth even talking about this album for.
The best track might well be "Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead," which might come closest to defying all those conventions, the low point is the dull "I Ain't Blue."
For other female artist of the month artists, please check out my reviews of:
Celebrated - Ella Fitzgerald
"Jackie’s Strength" (single) - Tori Amos
50 Greatest Hits - Reba McEntire
For other music reviews, please visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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