The list of female blues-rock vocalists who have either been influential pioneers or have achieved commercial success is very short. Think Big Mama Thornton, Etta James, Bessie Smith and Janis Joplin.
There are perhaps a few others that may come to mind, but that’s about it.
Of course, none have had the lasting influence, critical and commercial success, plus the respect and adulation of her contemporaries as Grammy Award-winning vocalist/guitarist Bonnie Raitt.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and her band will continue her current tour at 8 p.m. on Feb. 16 at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.
Though Raitt is now in her fifth decade as a performer, the 63-year old enjoyed one of her most successful years in 2012.
Her latest CD release, “Slipstream” (her first since 2005 and first released on her own label, Redwing Records), has been a huge success both chart-wise and with the ever hard-to-please music press. It’s also been nominated for a Grammy.
The rootsy, bluesy, yet very contemporary “Slipstream” is essentially a covers album, highlighting songs by some of Raitt’s favorite songwriters such as Randall Bramblett, Joe Henry, and Bob Dylan.
Her skills as an interpreter have never been sharper.
“I hope they’ll be as knocked out by these new songs and the playing as I am,” Raitt has said, referring to her faithful audience. “I love letting folks know about these often overlooked gems. I’m as proud of this record as any I’ve made.”
Raitt’s slide guitar prowess — she’s without a doubt one of the great guitarists of our time, owing much of her style to bluesman Elmore James — is also prominently displayed on “Slipstream.”
Highlights include her six-string exchanges with legendary guitarist Bill Frisell and lap steel extraordinaire Greg Leisz.
When asked about the title — “Slipstream” — Raitt explained: “I’m so inspired and proud to carry on the styles of music I love, whether it’s reggae or a James Brown feel, ballads or the blues. I’m in the slipstream of those who came before me and I’m creating one for those behind me as well.”
As for finding and selecting the right songs for such a project, Raitt hinted at the sometimes mystifying ways certain songs land in her consciousness.
“As for themes, it’s more a process of finding songs that really speak to me at the moment. Which ones make it and how they fit together almost reveals itself more to me than the other way around. After all this time, it’s still a pretty mysterious process of intuition, luck and diligent searching more than anything plotted out.”
For further information and tickets, visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.
Chris Baptiste is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.