Since releasing her debut album in 1971, guitarist Bonnie Raitt has played on the back roads of popular music at an historic, but lightly traveled intersection of Deep South blues and rock ‘n’ roll that allowed her plenty of space to be herself, but could get pretty lonesome.
Several times, the masses stumbled upon her, but it’s been more than two decades since she stood in the spotlight of “Nick of Time” and “Something To Talk About.”
In recent years, however, that place has grown so popular with young explorers of rock, country, blues and bluegrass traditions that it was given a name, and in February, Raitt’s wonderfully eclectic 2012 album, “Slipstream,” took home a Grammy Award for best album in the genre called Americana.
In a conversation from her Northern California home, Raitt, self-deprecating and infectiously optimistic, says it was only a matter of time before popular attention came back around to her brand of music.
“After a certain amount of time — I think Elvis Costello or someone said — you get your turn back up on the wheel,” Raitt says. “Your wheel comes around, and you could be doing the same thing, but it’s just your turn to come back up to the top.”
Raitt released “Slipstream” on her own Redwing Records label in April 2012, her first studio album in seven years, and the acclaim for the album and its supporting tour, which nears its end with a performance Nov. 30 at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, has been a remarkable reminder of the timeless virtues of her songs.
With a diverse set of ambitions — illustrated by an extraordinary take on Bob Dylan’s “Standing in the Doorway” (with help from guitar master Bill Frisell), a reggae-flavored version of the underappreciated Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” and the cynical social commentary of “Marriage Made in Hollywood,” written by her ex-husband, actor Michael O’Keefe, and influential Irish songwriter Paul Brady — “Slipstream” was named a Top 50 album of 2012 by Rolling Stone and American Songwriter magazine (where it clocked in at No. 9 for perhaps a tougher crowd). The emotion-laden ballad “Not ’Cause I Wanted To” made many critics’ list of top songs of 2012, including those put out by NPR and the New York Times.
That acclaim mirrored the commercial reaction: On the year-end Billboard charts, “Slipstream” finished as the No. 1 blues album, No. 9 independent album and No. 30 rock album. Raitt was listed 2012’s No. 1 blues artist (one spot ahead of up-and-coming guitarist Gary Clark Jr.) and No. 7 independent album artist.
While she regrets that her album may be taking attention away from more legitimate blues releases — “‘Slipstream’ isn’t a blues record,” Raitt says — she feels right at home in the roots-oriented Americana genre, where contemporaries such as Bob Dylan, the Band, Delbert McClinton and John Prine are appreciated by some of the top-selling acts of today.
“It gives us kind of a world [where] we can appreciate acoustic music and appreciate different noncommercial thrusts of music,” she says. “The fact that Mumford and Sons did as well as they did, and the Lumineers and so many other great bands are getting exposure in movie soundtracks and TV shows, that really bodes well for those of us that love that kind of rootsy sound.”
This year’s Grammy celebration was something of a love-in for the Americana crowd, including the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, who confronted the 64-year-old Raitt on the red carpet to say that meeting her was a box to checked off on his bucket list.
“We had a real great moment. He was as surprised to find out I love what he does as much as I was to find out he likes what I do,” says Raitt, who calls such meetings “one of the unexpected gifts” of awards shows and benefit appearances.
“You’re in the red-carpet line, and all of a sudden the Kings of Leon turn out to be huge fans of mine, and I get to go up to Civil Wars and tell them how much I love them,” she says.
Raitt says her own bucket list would include recording with old friend Keith Richards (in May she sat in on “Let It Bleed” during a Rolling Stones tour stop in nearby San Jose) and reggae icon Toots Hibbert. But she acknowledges there aren’t many performers she hasn’t met or played with.
“I’ve been so incredibly blessed,” she says.
IF YOU GO
Bonnie Raitt will perform 8 p.m. Nov. 30 at Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, in Hollywood. Paul Brady opens. Tickets cost $59.50-$89.50. Call 954-797-5531 or go to MyHRL.com.
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun