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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bonnie Raitt: Bonnie Raitt And Friends

BONNIE RAITT: BONNIE RAITT AND FRIENDS (2006)

1) Introduction; 2) Unnecessarily Mercenary; 3) I Will Not Be Broken; 4) God Was In The Water; 5) Gnawin' On It; 6) You; 7) Love Letter; 8) Two Lights In The Nighttime; 9) Well, Well, Well; 10) Something To Talk About; 11) I Don't Want Anything To Change; 12) Love Sneakin' Up On You.

Once again, this significantly shortened version of the show is objectively inferior to the complete DVD release — not because more Bonnie Raitt (and friends) is better Bonnie Raitt (and friends), but because watching the lady perform is somehow always a more satisfactory experience than hearing the lady perform, even if for this particular evening (September 30, 2005, at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City) it seems as if she slightly overdid it with the «amazing technicolor dreamcoat», in Tim Rice's words. Fortunately, no jealous brothers of Joseph stuck around long enough to tear that outfit to bits after the show.

The actual guests include Wolfman, Dracula and his son... that is, I meant to say, there is Keb' Mo', Ben Harper, Alison Krauss, and Norah Jones — four major professionals with impeccable taste, four «keepers of the flame» who keep it relatively low, but firm and steady, and, just like Bonnie herself, each of them could be accused of being frequently bland and even more frequent­ly boring, but not of not knowing their craft. Consequently and predictably, the album is even, well-combed, tastefully sensitive, and instantaneously forgettable.

A large part of the problem is the setlist, though: I was actually hoping that with a supporting pool like that, Bonnie had a chance of actually going back to the roots of the roots and doing stuff like, well, for instance, a whole bunch of cover versions of old urban blues and country blues numbers — recuperate some Sippie Wallace and/or Memphis Minnie obscurities, for instance. Alas, six out of twelve numbers included here are taken directly from her latest album, and most of the others do not go back further than Nick Of Time, either. So what's the big deal?

As it happens, Keb' Mo' is pretty much wasted on ʽLove Letterʼ (he does play better lead guitar than on the studio original, but the solos are too short and non-flashy to notice that). Norah Jones duets with Bonnie on ʽI Don't Want Anything To Changeʼ, a limp, all-atmosphere ballad from the latest album that hardly gains anything from the addition of Norah's «affected» singing style (for some reason, that little «wheeze» of hers really irritates me, direct predecessor as it is to the even more atrocious «husky» style of such glossily packaged femme-fatales as Lana del Rey). Much better is the duet with Krauss on ʽYouʼ — a good idea to bring in an additional spoonful of vocal beauty to a song that was already quite pretty in the first place.

But arguably the major highlight is the duet between Bonnie and Ben Harper on ʽWell, Well, Wellʼ, an old-timey blues tune with new lyrics (by Dylan himself) but that old Blind Willie Johnson spirit. They tear it up on the acoustic and slide guitars so fabulously (well, maybe «tear» is not quite the right word) that, once again, I have no idea why so much of that other space had to be wasted on the adult contemporary crap or faithful renditions of decent tunes like ʽUnneces­sary Mercenaryʼ and ʽGod Was In The Waterʼ that simply sound like identical twins of their studio counterparts. Yes, it is still «smooth» and «safe», but I'd rather see Bonnie Raitt go on car­rying a time-honored tradition than engaging in a time-dishonored one.

Ultimately, if you want to interpret «Bonnie Raitt and Friends» as «Bonnie Raitt gets together with some mighty fine blues musicians and dabbles in old-time fun with the lot of 'em», do not. Really, this is mostly just Bonnie Raitt promoting her latest album in a non-totally-dull fashion. That album was not among her worst, and the friends do provide some extra amusement, and the live CD goes down well (and the live DVD even better), but ain't nothing to write home about even if you are in the habit of writing home about Bonnie Raitt, in which case you must be a pretty weird specimen of H.S.S.

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