BONNIE RAITT: DIG IN DEEP (2016)
1) Unintended Consequence Of Love; 2) Need You Tonight; 3) I Knew; 4) All Alone With Something To Say; 5) What You're Doin' To Me; 6) Shakin' Shakin' Shakes; 7) Undone; 8) If You Need Somebody; 9) Gypsy In Me; 10) The Comin' Round Is Going Through; 11) You've Changed My Mind; 12) The Ones We Couldn't Be.
The unimaginativeness of those album covers is beginning to get me down, but then again, it does fit in very well with the music. So here we are now — another four years, another album that shows Bonnie doing her thing, not giving a damn, getting rave reviews from mainstream critics for doing her thing and not giving a damn, and pretty much ignored by the world at large and probably to be forgotten at the precise moment that she releases her next one, despite all the rave reviews and despite doing her thing and despite not giving a damn.
Is there anything particularly unpredictable here? Well, she covers Los Lobos (ʽShakin' Shakin' Shakesʼ), which is sort of a first, and INXS (ʽNeed You Tonightʼ), which is a complete surprise, but then ʽNeed You Tonightʼ is one of the band's most rocking tunes, and it's cool to see Bonnie's band redo it in the manner of a Stones' rocker (incidentally, the Stones themselves had already recycled the song's trademark trilling riff on ʽLook What The Cat Dragged Inʼ ten years before). For that matter, a lot of stuff here sounds like Stones-lite — Bonnie's second guitarist George Marinelli suddenly decides to go all Keith Richards on tracks like ʽThe Comin' Round Is Going Throughʼ, while Bonnie's slide lead wraps around him like a Ronnie Wood solo.
Not that I mind — in fact, at this time I don't mind at all whatever she is doing, because neither the Stonesy rockers nor the country ballads sound annoying or distasteful: there are no objections I could raise against the arrangement and production values of the tunes, or against the professionalism or even against Bonnie's vocals: now, after all those years, she finally reaps the fruits, with a vocal delivery every bit as strong and technically perfect as it was forty-five years ago, when her vocals were considered emotionally and technically mediocre compared to so many of her peers... and where are her peers now? But if you want a nuanced opinion, I'd say that Dig In Deep is a little weaker than Slipstream, because it sounds more like a bunch of bluesy jams recorded for fun in the studio rather than a record with an attitude.
That's about all I can say before I turn into Thom Jurek of the All-Music Guide and start peppering you with enticing, but meaningless phrases like "her earthy singing voice is more disciplined and holds more emotional authority than ever before". Isn't "disciplined" sort of the opposite of "emotional"? And, anyway, if what he is trying to say is that Bonnie Raitt only gets better as she gets older, wouldn't that be somewhat underselling her early records? As far as I can tell, she's just stuck in a formula, and all she can do is polish that formula to professional perfection, and the only reason why this stuff is preferable to the Nick Of Time era (and it is) is because it avoids the pitfalls of hollow, soulless production. And that's about it.
PS. I actually enjoyed listening to this album, and even toe-tapped and played air guitar on a couple of tracks. Honestly, I did. I'm just jotting this down because I will most likely never ever hear it again, so check: "In 2016, I did truly and verily enjoy Bonnie Raitt's Dig In Deep". Let posterity be the judge.