Discover: “Slipstream”

It’s typical for a band or artist to find success in bursts with a hit single or album that rockets them into the forefront until their turn on the airwaves is up. Yet some names manage to stay on the charts for years, and if they are quite talented, maybe a decade. Maybe.

Blues rocker Bonnie Raitt’s career began in the ’70s and this year she released her 19th – can you believe it – album, Slipstream. The album is upbeat and holds true to Raitt’s Americana roots. Just as she has in the past, Raitt’s tracks are a fusion of folk, country, and blues with a bit of rock and roll mixed in. The album showcases a range of stage-worthy guitar solos, stomping drum beats, and hearty bass lines.

As the daughter of a Broadway star and a pianist, Raitt’s long-term and wild success should come as no surprise. To this day, Raitt has nine Grammy Awards under her belt. Slipstream is Raitt’s first release in seven years since her 2005 release Souls Alike and has been credited as her best yet by American Songwriter Magazine. Raitt told the Los Angeles Times that she was inspired to make this latest album from her experiences being an audience member in the time in between. “I got to go to gigs – just be a fan, no pressure whatsoever,” Raitt said. “You can be off only so long when you have this in your blood.”

Not only is this Raitt’s first album in seven years, it just so happens to be the debut album of her independent label – Redwing Records. Raitt told NPR that many of her peers had begun their own labels crediting Jackson Browne and Beth Nielson Chapman. Slipstream is an undoubtedly important record and dear to Raitt’s heart for myriad reasons and it shows from beginning to end. With the help of producer Joe Henry (famed for working with Elvis Costello, Solomon Burke and others), Raitt’s talent is riper than ever.

Slipstream starts off with a bang; “Used To Rule The World” kicks the album into gear with rhythmic guitar riffs and Raitt’s soulful vocals. Quickly transitioning into her hit single, a cover of the late Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down The Line” that has been bouncing off of the WERS airwaves all summer long, Raitt dips her toes into some reggae vibes. This track helps to showcase Raitt’s versatility. From the second the album starts, you can tell that it was a joy to record. With each guitar solo or brief jam-breakdown, the energy is palpable even through flimsy laptop speakers.

As the album progresses, Raitt slows it down with emotional tracks like “You Can’t Fail Me Now” and “Take My Love With You.” Though Raitt’s pipes have endured years of touring, her vocals on Slipstream are pure and full as ever. While many of the tracks of the album revolve around themes of love and loss, it is by no means a somber album but more so a recognition of emotion and a nod to some of Raitt’s favorite lyricists.

Closing the album is Joe Henry’s “God Only Knows” – a soft piano ballad where Raitt’s vocals shine even more brightly. Her voice transitions so smoothly from hard rock rhythms to the reggae infusion to soft piano so effortlessly – a true sign of a seasoned musician and artist. Her song is her craft and Raitt pulls of Slipsteam like a pro. Keep an eye on Redwing Records – while Slipsteam is the first, it will certainly not be the last great album they produce. Be sure to give Slipstream a listen as Raitt is a staple to the genre and certainly someone you should be familiar with. Slipstream is a prime example of Americana craftsmanship done right.

By Jeeyoon Kim

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