Star-Bulletin Features

Bonnie Raitt eschews
roots on newest CD

"Silver Lining"
Bonnie Raitt (Capitol)

By Burl Burlingame

Bonnie Raitt's got Eric Clapton disease. Both are incredible guitarists who have developed into fine vocalists, but that means we're not hearing much in the way of guitar out of them these days.

This is Raitt's first album in four years, since 1998's "Fundamental," and so it has a high degree of expectation attached to it. Raitt hasn't been goofing off. She just got a star on Hollywood's "walk of fame" and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

The good news is, Raitt can no longer be strictly pegged a blues artist with pop flourishes. The bad news is, she's no longer playing the blues. Those hot licks and catchy hooks are gone. What we've got here, instead, is a stylish, torchy vocalist who "interprets" songs instead of simply playing them.

Sometimes the results are superb. The title tune, written by David Gray, is simply heartbreaking, and the inflective edge and subtle honesty in Raitt's voice lifts it beyond any Celine-Britney-Whitney screech fest. Other tunes -- including the "Graceland"-influenced "Hear Me Lord" by Oliver Mtukudzi, the urban R&B of "Monkey Business" by Raitt keyboardist Jon Cleary and the Dolly Parton-ish hymn "Wounded Heart" by Jude Johnstone -- give the album an expansive feel, although it's a bit like hitting every counter at Ala Moana Center's Food Court.

Raitt manages to unsling the slide guitar on "Gnawin' on It," "Valley of Pain," "Back Around" and "No Gettin' Over You." Some of these tunes are extended riffs, relying on Raitt's sheer charisma to carry them out.

Other contributors include Habib Koité, Bamada and Roy Rogers.

"Silver Lining" was co-produced by Raitt, Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake, the same team responsible for "Fundamental," and the moody, audio quality is similar.

"Silver Lining" has its share of lead, and some of it is pure gold. Which is which will depend on what mood you're in.

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