It’s a rare few who can boast the longevity of Bonnie Raitt. Even prior to the release of her 1971 debut, the fire-haired blues songstress from New York was ingratiating herself to the masses. In the time since, Raitt has showcased her nimble fretwork and soulful voice on 16 studio albums, brought home multiple Grammy Awards, and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. More importantly, though, she’s helped pave the way for countless artists who’ve come up behind her.
On Sunday, September 23, Raitt returns to the Santa Barbara Bowl in support of her latest release, this year’s Slipstream. Rooted in the classic blues music that’s marked much of her career, the album is undoubtedly one of Raitt’s finest to date. Tracks like “Ain’t Gonna Let You Go” and “Split Decision” find the singer riffing and jamming as only she can, evoking the vibe and soul of blues guitar greats like Howlin’ Wolf and Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins. Elsewhere, jams like the country-tinged “Marriage Made in Hollywood” and her take on Dylan’s “Standing in the Doorway” showcase Raitt’s ability to transform a casual turn of phrase into a sentiment that tugs at the heartstrings.
“I’m so inspired and proud to carry on the styles of music I love, whether it’s reggae or a James Brown feel, ballads or the blues,” Raitt said of the album in a recent press release.
In addition to her longtime bandmates, Slipstream features Raitt working alongside a roster’s worth of impressively accomplished players. Bill Frisell lent his electric guitar genius to covers of Dylan’s “Million Miles” and “Doorway,” and “You Can’t Fail Me Now” stems from a songwriting collaboration between Loudon Wainwright and Slipstream producer Joseph Lee Henry.
As for the album’s title, Raitt considers it as much an homage to her predecessors as it is a testament to her legacy: “I’m in the slipstream of those who came before me, and I’m creating one for those behind me as well.”
Bonnie Raitt plays the Santa Barbara Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.) with Mavis Staples on Sunday, September 23, at 7 p.m. Call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com for tickets and info.