When Bonnie Raitt sauntered onto the stage at the Grammy Awards earlier this month and planted herself between Gary Clark Jr. and Chris Stapleton with a "let me show you how it's done, boys" swagger during the telecast's sublime tribute to B.B. King, it was a potent reminder of the veteran rocker's estimable gifts. Although the memory jog that Raitt is a badass wasn't strictly necessary, it's always good to get one. Her new album, "Dig in Deep," serves as another prompt that when it comes to this singer, songwriter, and slide guitarist extraordinaire, the thrill most certainly is not gone.
Self-produced (with one exquisite leftover from her "Slipstream" sessions with Joe Henry), the 12-track collection — five written or co-written by the California native — is vintage Raitt. She traverses American roots traditions: folk, blues, rock, R&B, and the intersections therein, with trips to city dive bars, rural juke joints, and New Orleans dance parties along the way.
As is often the case, love is in the air, and mostly because it's slipping away — the best tunes here grapple with the wistfulness and Monday morning quarterbacking of the aftermath.
"All Alone With Something to Say" written by Gordon Kennedy and Steven Dale Jones, details with wit and heavy melancholy the moment you've found the perfect riposte to something that was said in the past. "Undone," a gorgeous keyboard-driven ballad from the pen of Bonnie Bishop, crystallizes the instant when you've said the thing you cannot take back to the person you love. Raitt's own "The Ones We Couldn't Be," a picture of economy and restraint, closes the album with reflections of a regret more familial yet no less painful. "There's no solace here tonight," she sings, "there's just wishing and regret for company."
Elsewhere, Raitt pumps up the tempo and lets loose her bottleneck on a churning cover of "Need You Tonight" by INXS, the politically charged "The Comin' Round Is Going Through," vampy dance jam "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes," and funky opener "Unintended Consequence of Love."
Like her heroes before her, B.B. King included, Raitt is clearly in it for the long haul, and not content to rely on past glory. Instead, she wisely digs "Deep" and her listeners are the better for it.
ESSENTIAL "All Alone With Something
Bonnie Raitt performs at the Orpheum Theatre March 29.