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A Singer Praises Other People's Songs

By John Jurgenson
Wall Street Journal

March 29, 2012, 6:26 p.m. ET

After her mother, father and brother died within five years of one another, Bonnie Raitt put her music aside. The seven years since her last studio album, "Souls Alike," represent the only extended pause in a career that began with her first contracted gig in 1969, when she earned $75 for playing in Philadelphia's Pennypack Park.

She eventually returned to the studio with producer Joe Henry, a singer-songwriter known for his earthy stamp on records by veterans such as Solomon Burke and Bettye LaVette. Four songs from those sessions, elegiac ballads that include two Bob Dylan covers, landed on Ms. Raitt's new album, "Slipstream," due April 10. She rounded out the album with her own productions, many of them designed to stoke the energy of live audiences (a tour begins in May). "Ain't Gonna Let You Go" was hastily rearranged around a fuzzed-out John Lee Hooker riff because it "wasn't sounding tough enough," says Ms. Raitt. Her singing adds an ache to the reggae lilt of Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down the Line." (continued...)

A version of this article appeared Mar. 30, 2012, on page D5 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Singer Praises Other People's Songs.