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nick simonite

Bonnie Raitt took time off from recording to rest and heal following personal tragedy. Now she’s back with a reinvigorated new album, Slipstream.

It has been seven years since Bonnie Raitt last released a studio album, but if you think she spent much of that time lying low — well, you’re right. “Most people think about going away for a vacation,” says the Grammy-winning singer-guitarist. “But musicians really dream of having more than one season in a place.” So after touring and recording steadily for decades, Raitt, 62, decided to stick around her home in the L.A. area and do normal-person stuff: hike, practice yoga, tend her garden. Sadly, she was also confronted with the deaths of her parents and her brother. “I just wanted to be able to sit still for a minute,” she says now, “and let all that wash over me.”

This month, Raitt springs back with a new album that’s worth the wait. On Slipstream (Redwing Records, $12), she offers up characteristically soulful renditions of tunes by Bob Dylan, Loudon Wainwright III and Randall Bramblett; there’s even a funky, reggae-accented take on Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line.” Raitt produced the bulk of the record with crackerjack backing by her road band. For four cuts, though, she put herself in the hands of producer Joe Henry, who helmed recent discs by Mose Allison and House star Hugh Laurie.

“I think Bonnie was surprised by how isolated her life had become from music,” Henry says of working with Raitt, whom he calls “one of the great voices of the rock age.” “But she was invigorated so quickly, just by embracing the process and feeling it embrace her in return.”

That re-engagement comes just as Raitt’s music is being celebrated by a new generation of artists. Alicia Keys joined her for a duet at the Grammys earlier this year, while Adele and Bon Iver have performed her hit “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” “It’s really great, because I like who’s covering the songs,” Raitt says with a laugh. “It might be different if it were a speed-metal version. But even that would be fun!”

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Lyrically Speaking
Oberhofer, “Homebro”
Time Capsules II
(Glassnote Records, $10)

“Until I spent three years away,
I never knew why
the people say
Love is all around.”