Published Feb 24, 2016Forty-five years into an illustrious career, Bonnie Raitt's place in music history is well assured. The young hotshot guitarist who idolized — and occasionally opened for — blues icons such as Sippie Wallace, Ruth Brown and Mississippi Fred McDowell is now a legend in her own right and an influence on a whole new generation of musicians that ranges from Adele to Bon Iver to rising country star Cam. Raitt could easily settle into semi-retirement, living off the hits from the multi-platinum LPs that revived her career at the turn of the '90s, which is why it's such a pleasure to find her sounding as vibrant and hungry as ever on Dig in Deep, her first album since 2012's critically acclaimed Slipstream.
Recorded with her long-time touring musicians and mostly produced by Raitt herself, Dig in Deep treads familiar territory both musically and lyrically, but it bristles with energy and feels like an expertly paced live set by a singer and a band having an especially great night. Mixing new originals with a few covers, Dig in Deep has something to offer to both fans of her early Warner Bros. sides and those who came on board with the Grammy-winning Nick of Time and Luck of the Draw. It's a remarkable showcase for all of Raitt's gifts as a singer, musician, writer and interpreter.
Opener "Unintended Consequences of Love" sets the table with Raitt's typically adult viewpoint on relationships and a signature bottleneck slide solo. Her guitar playing has lost none of its killer tone and expressiveness, and Raitt's warm, soulful voice is similarly undiminished, sitting front-and-centre on first single "Gypsy in Me" as well as "I Knew" and "Undone," a pair of tasteful, moving ballads. A searing, sensual cover of INXS's "Need You Tonight" proves that Raitt can still throw a curveball with the best of them, while her straightforward version of Los Lobos's "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes" shows that her ability to make a song her own — even without altering the arrangement — remains unparalleled.
"What You're Doin' to Me" masterfully blends Little Feat's jaunty Southern funk and Fleetwood Mac's '70s California sound, the rollicking New Orleans piano riffs perhaps an homage to the singer's late friend Allen Toussaint. A lifelong political activist, Raitt also seems to relish taking shots at blowhard Republicans and Wall Street on the hard-charging "The Comin' Round Is Going Through" ("You say it's workin', it's tricklin' down / Yeah, there's a trick, cause the jobs ain't around").
The album closes with two sparse, subdued numbers, the latter of which ("The Ones We Couldn't Be") conveys regret and remorse with heartbreaking directness. Penned by Raitt, it may just be the most devastating song she's ever recorded — no small feat in a catalogue that already includes "Love Has No Pride" and "I Can't Make You Love Me." (Redwing Records)