Friday, July 28, 2006

Bonnie Raitt, July 2006

Raitt at Wolf Trap: Something to Talk About

Washington Post, Wednesday, July 5, 2006; Page C02

Bonnie Raitt's music has always reflected her latest enthusiasm: her Celtic heritage in the "Luck of the Draw" era, Zimbabwean music a few years ago. On her current tour, which stopped at Wolf Trap on Monday and returns tonight, she's reveling in herself.

Raitt is a generous performer, and on Monday she gave ample time in the spotlight to keyboardist Jon Cleary, whose New Orleans strut sound provided many joyous moments. She praised the other longtime members of her band, gave a shout-out to Public Citizen and dedicated "Papa Come Quick" to WRNR DJ Damian Einstein. But unquestionably personal concerns were reflected in a version of "Nick of Time," in which the verse about her aging parents was, poignantly, newly set in the past tense.

She dug deep into her catalogue for authoritative yet comfortable readings of Sippie Wallace's "Woman Be Wise" and NRBQ's "Me and the Boys." Recent songs such as Maia Sharp's "I Don't Want Anything to Change" were strong, but old favorites such as "Angel From Montgomery" and "Love Letter" -- both featuring guest vocals and guitar by opener Keb' Mo' -- were incandescent.

"I Can't Make You Love Me," so familiar it's hard to hear anew, became a portrait of wonder and pain, with Raitt's voice taking on a fullness that the blues-loving waif of 35 years ago must have longed to achieve. She's grown into a powerhouse performer, yes, but the spark of rediscovery is always there, turning what might otherwise seem like laurel-resting or midlife dilettantism into impassioned renewal. May she never lose the power to surprise.

-- Pamela Murray Winters

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