First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2005, Volume 12, #10
Written by John Metzger
Throughout her 34-year career, Bonnie Raitt has released a mixed bag of albums that far too frequently have failed to utilize the full scope of her talent, and at their worst, they featured song selections that were uninspired and guitar playing that was overly constrained. Her slew of Grammy victories and the accompanying commercial success only exacerbated the problem by causing her to approach her craft from a more conservative and increasingly formulaic perspective. Her 2000 endeavor Fundamental was an attempt to break the mold and get back to her roots, but the production of Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake partially obscured the organic ambience that she was attempting to embrace. Her most recent effort Souls Alike, however, is something entirely different, and itís safe to say that itís the best outing that Raitt has crafted in years.
Although Blake lends a helping hand on Souls Alike, Raitt serves as the outingís primary producer, and in doing so, she succeeds in applying his experimental tendencies only where they are most needed. As a result, she is able to bridge the gap that typically has divided her infatuations with both edgy blues and pop-driven soul. Strangely enough, the album begins in an uninteresting fashion with the generic roots-rock of I Will Not Be Broken. Written by the same team (Gordon Kennedy, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and Tommy Sims) that penned Change the World for Eric Clapton, the tune serves as a safety net in that itís designed for (and achieves) widespread, crossover appeal, and not surprisingly, it immediately was proffered to radio as the collectionís first single. Equally problematic is the concluding The Bed I Made, which wants to be a transcendent torch song but sounds exceedingly dull, despite its unsettling lyrics.
Throughout the rest of Souls Alike, however, Raitt borrows material from an array of relatively unknown songwriters ó Maia Sharp, Emory Joseph, and Randall Bramblett, among them ó and lays down some rather wicked grooves. Love on One Condition invokes the funky, barroom blues of Little Feat, while Unnecessarily Mercenary is a spirited, Marcia Ball-inflected boogie. Elsewhere, Raitt dabbles in murky modernity on Crooked Crown and slithers through Deep Waterís electronica-colored currents; she brings both strength and fragility to So Close and wraps Trinketsí childhood reflections in a playful, Doors-ian atmosphere; and she revels in the ominous, supernatural power of God Was in the Water and crosses Sam Cooke with swamp-rock on Two Lights in the Nighttime. Indeed, artists relegated to the adult contemporary circuit tend to gravitate towards middle-of-the-road musings, but on Souls Alike, Raitt regains her edge and puts forth a bold effort that demonstrates precisely why she long has been the darling of both critics and musicians. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
Souls Alike is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box