Bonnie Raitt: Rock Steady


Aidin Vaziri | Bonnie Raitt, the nine-time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, has spent most of the past year on the road in support of her first new album in nearly a decade, “Slipstream.” Arriving after a period of personal turmoil in which she lost her parents, brother and best friend, it finds the 63-year-old Marin County resident delivering her low-slung blues with more conviction than ever on songs written by Bob Dylan, Loudon Wainwright III and producer Joe Henry. She’s also back on the radio with her lilting take on Gerry Rafferty’s 1977 single, “Right Down the Line.” Raitt performs Friday on the Banjo Stage at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival.

Q: Before your latest album you took a big chunk of time off. How do you go from not playing at all to playing 100 shows a year?

A: It was such a welcome change. I needed to take a break. I needed to get off that thing where I’m always thinking of the next album project. But then I really missed it. When I got back in the studio with Joe Henry it was like I was a racehorse in a stall. We did 95 dates in the States last year. It’s as fun as I remember it in my early 20s.

Q: The only difference is you’re sober now. Does that make it better or worse?

A: It’s a little more fun to wake up when you’re not crying for mercy. I don’t think I could enjoy it as much. Partying is for the young. For people like you and me, it’s an occupational hazard. You grow out of it. I’m rediscovering these cities that I missed the first time around. We ride bikes and explore different exhibits at museums. It’s pretty relaxing.

Q: I was just thinking back to how earlier this year you got to sing “Let It Bleed” with the Rolling Stones in San Jose. Was Mick Jagger bummed you blew him off the stage?

A: How sweet of you. I’ve known those guys since I was 19. To be on a stage that huge and know you’re going to be blown up on a huge screen is a big deal. You only get told what song you’re going to do at 5 p.m. Luckily, it’s a song I knew.

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