Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame inductee Bonnie Raitt returns with her first studio album in seven years.
Slipstream sees the blueswoman tackle covers as she deals with the loss of her brother Steve to brain cancer. Raitt worked with LA songwriter and producer Joe Henry on her latest offering and covers two Bob Dylan tracks as well as the late Gerry Rafferty’s song Right Down the Line.
“I lost both of my parents in the middle of the decade, seven months apart from each other. They both had long illnesses and then my brother died after an eight-year battle with brain cancer,” says Raitt, who heads to Australia to perform at blues festivals on both coasts next year.
“I was totally spent and needed to take time out and deal with some very significant losses that had taken place in my life. I wasn’t sick of music. I just needed to stop thinking about work and take time to understand what had happened to me and those I really loved and called my family.”
Raitt, who has been making music since 1970 and recorded 19 albums in a career that spans four decades, rarely sits still. She only knows a busy life spent on the road touring and has just completed an 85-city tour for her latest album. Life on the road feels like a home away from home.
She says being in transit is easier than having to think about making a new album.
“It is a bit more daunting coming up with new records than it is to be on the road,” she says.
“I don’t want to do the same thing over with each record. I really like to cull my ideas and make sure what I have to say is new and fresh and nothing I’ve done before.”
Slipstream features Million Miles and Standing in the Doorway — two Bob Dylan tracks he wrote in 1997 with lyrics that resonate with 63-year-old Raitt.
“I couldn’t cover just any song, I had to relate to it personally. There are aspects of those songs that really speak to me,” she says. “I am not singing Dylan’s story as much as I am singing the lyrics that relate to my own journey in life.”
Of teaming with Madonna’s brother-in-law Joe Henry, Raitt says: “We had been mutual fans of each other for a long time. I went to his studio in late 2010 and we really hit it off. I didn’t just turn up there. We had some discussions and we both wanted to work with one another. I went to his basement studio in South Pasadena and it’s where I got my appetite back for music.”
Thanks to acts such as Adele and Bon Iver, Raitt’s music is gaining attention with a younger audience. Adele sang her 1991 hit song I Can’t Make You Love Me in London last year and Bon Iver has also covered the same track.
“Adele sings that song with so much poise and power at her age, she is amazing,” says Raitt.
“I was knocked out when Norah Jones first appeared but Adele is so monumental and a really inspiring singer, too.
“I was thrilled when she sang my song because she’s helped bring it to a whole new generation of fans now looking me up on YouTube to see the original version, which is now over 20 years old. I didn’t write the song but it’s one of the most powerful songs about a break-up and I am glad she gave it a new life.”
Bonnie Raitt plays West Coast Blues ’n’ Roots at Fremantle Park on March 23-24. Tickets from Moshtix.