Writing about underpublicized blueswoman Rory Block earlier this week has got me thinking about another blues lady who needs no introduction at all. Everyone knows and respects Bonnie Raitt so much that her gender has long ago ceased to raise questions as to whether she can play with the big boys. Nowadays she just kicks most of these guys' asses.
Steadily building up a cult following for eighteen plus years before busting out to mainstream success with 1989's Nick Of Time and taking home four Grammies the following year, Raitt continues to make good records. In fact, I consider last year's Souls Alike her best in a long while.
There's a lot of gems in Raitt's pre-breakout era, too, especially the first two or three albums. Going back to listen to them, you'll find that aside from Don Was' more contemporary production missing, she hadn't changed her style much if at all over the years. She could belt out an old blues number with authority on one track and switch to smooth, Southern California rock to the next, then on to a jazzy R&B song. The common thread that makes all the songs work together in one collection is her just-right arrangements, passionate but never over-emoting vocals and genuine blues slide guitar.
That's just how to describe Raitt's second effort Give It Up (1972), an overlooked treasure of well-executed contemporary sounds mixed in with a solid foundation of roots music. In it she shows her wide range of influences and even changes up going from originals to covers (the most notable cover being Chris Smither's "Love Me Like A Man").
It's an original which kicks off this record, however, one that really grabs you if you are into vintage American music. "Give It Up Or Let Me Go" starts out with Bonnie's wonderful bottleneck guitar launching a traditional blues style melody with a ragtime type groove. Then on the second verse, the Dixieland horns segue right in. Bonnie is belting the song with all the sass of Bessie Smith… "aw shake it don't break it"… while the piano and clarinet take their New Orleans-flavored solo turns. They have such a nice old fashioned jam going that at a four and a half minutes length, it ends way too soon.
That's the beauty of Raitt; her cred as a modern, Americana artist makes even the most antiquated sounding tunes sound hip. Bonnie Raitt was old school when old school wasn't cool. It just took eighteen years for most everyone else to catch up with her. "Give It Up Or Let Me Go" would have been cool in 1920 but will still be cool in 2020.
"One Track Mind" is a weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too. Downloads are low quality rips available for only about a week.