Bonnie Raitt's 'Draw' a work of art


SUCCESS has not changed or spoiled singer-guitarist Bonnie Raitt. Last year Raitt won four Grammys -- three for her 1989 album "Nick of Time." Raitt's follow-up album, "Luck of the Draw" (Capitol Records), released today, is a close cousin in mood and style to "Nick of Time."

Raitt wisely hasn't tried to fix what ain't broke; her music remains firmly rooted in Delta blues and Southern rhythm and blues. She's used the same producer, Don Was, and some of the same backup musicians and songwriters who helped make "Nick of Time" a hit that sold 3 million copies, resulting in a stellar career comeback. Evidently more comfortable with her songwriting, Raitt has included four of her own here.

Producer Was has created an easygoing atmosphere on record. It sounds as if Raitt invited a group of her talented musician friends (Bruce Hornsby, Benmont Tench, Ivan Neville, Richard Thompson) to her home for a casual but thoughtful living room jam. Nothing sounds sloppy; nothing sounds labored.

"Luck of the Draw," her 11th album, is dedicated to late guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. It is more reflective and subdued than most of Raitt's previous work.

There are few rollicking party or dance numbers. Her duet with Delbert McClinton, "Good Man, Good Woman," is the feistiest tune of the lot. Most of the dozen cuts here whisper in your ear or look you in the eye, intent on honest discussions about the rise and fall of relationships and the maturity necessary to fulfill commitments.

The songs, unpretentious short stories, ride on the unhurried currents of Raitt's smoky, confident voice and heartfelt slide guitar lines. There is calm and resignation here -- no panic, no urgency. At 41, Raitt is replacing sorrow, anger and fervor with wisdom and candor.

The album opens with weeping slide guitar, which drifts into the record's first single, "Something to Talk About," a story of rumors of love turning into true love.

The songs that follow deal with the courage to explore one's inhibitions, convictions (or lack of them) and imperfections and make honest assessments. Though newlywed Raitt has decided to make emotional commitments and settle down, these revealing songs aren't necessarily autobiographical.

Three stand out: the Mike Reid ballad "I Can't Make You Love Me," a wonderful song that takes the sting out of love unreturned; Paul Brady's more up-tempo "Not the Only One," about the lonely discovering love; and "Slow Ride," a steamy number about breakup prevention. The tune includes the sage and thrilling lyrics, "Now we can't change the past, but we can leave it behind. ... We'll just steal away into the night. And we'll just be two shadows, darlin', by the --board light ... "

With satisfying lines like that and Raitt in fine vocal and finger-picking form, "Luck of the Draw" is mostly aces.

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