Volume 12, Issue 23 ~ June 3-9, 2004
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Bonnie Raitt – Waterside at Calvert Marine Museum
by Pamela Murray Winters

How fortunate that music lovers in Chesapeake Country’s southern reaches get their voices heard on the subject of voices they want to hear.

“We’ve had several requests for her, actually,” says Melissa Carnes, public relations coordinator of the best selling Waterside concert series, of legendary singer Bonnie Raitt. When the Waterside series’ booking agent reported that Raitt might be available, Calvert Marine Museum jumped at the chance to host her show. Carnes says the museum was lucky to get her: “She’s only doing four shows in the United States this year.” After two nights at Wolf Trap in Virginia and then this one in Solomons on June 6, says Carnes, “she’s doing Georgia, and then she’s off to Europe and won’t be doing any shows in the United States for the rest of the year.”

Raitt, 53, was born into a musical family. Her father is musical-theater star John Raitt. Blues was more Bonnie’s style. Her days at tony Radcliffe College were cut short by the lure of the Boston blues-club scene, setting up a tension between mainstream acceptability and reckless abandon that would play out throughout her career.

Soon she was hanging out with blues legends like Sippie Wallace, wowing 1970s’ audiences with her fusion of blues styles and contemporary and original pop songs and releasing a string of acclaimed albums, including her self-titled debut in 1971 and the must-have Give It Up in 1972. Among her early accomplishments are the definitive covers of Randy Newman’s “Guilty” and John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.”

She was, and is, also dedicated to a number of causes, in particular the environment. Her 2002 tour with Lyle Lovett, the Green Highway tour, featured a traveling eco-village and employed some soy-fueled tour vehicles.

By the mid-1980s, with commercial success eluding her and alcohol and drugs a too-frequent solace, Raitt was ready for rebirth. Nick of Time, released in 1989, revealed the new Raitt, tidier and more openly sentimental, but also sure and strong and sober. She’s made some tradeoffs: Nick of Time — which won a number of Grammy awards, including Album of the Year — 1991’s Luck of the Draw and 1994’s Longing In Their Hearts favored slicker, easy-listening-radio-friendly music over the raw, exploratory sound of her pre-sobriety days.

Those compromises are minimized in her live shows, which reveal her as a consummate performer: quick-fingered on the slide guitar, with a voice both accessible and heartbreaking and with no shortage of energy, wit and presence.

Her most recent release is the 2003 Capitol compilation The Bonnie Raitt Collection; as neatly as it spans her long career, it can’t hold a candle to the concerts, which do the same.

Opening for Raitt at Waterside 2004 will be the Holmes Brothers. Originally from Christchurch in Virginia’s Chesapeake Country, Sherman and Wendell Holmes joined with fellow Virginian Popsy Dixon in 1979 to brew a blend of gospel and blues. Championed by such major-league rockers as Peter Gabriel and Joan Osborne (who produced 2001’s Speaking in Tongues), the Holmes Brothers are now reaping the benefits of their 25-year career with critical and popular raves. Their latest album is Simple Truths (2004).

It’s no wonder that tickets for this Waterside 2004 show sold out quickly. But Carnes says that there may well be a few available on the day of show, so you might want to give it a shot.

Calvert Marine Museum makes picture-perfect setting for blues on a summer’s eve. The gods have ordained it never rains on concert night, and the stage lights reflect on Back Creek. Seating is set up, in rows perhaps a little too tight, on the tree-edged bricked surround of the marine museum. Around the lawn, food and drink (beer, wine, sodas and water) are sold, and tables are set up for early picnicking. Even the comfort stations are high quality.

You’ll have a good time, and this sideline concert helps keep the museum flush to do its full-time job: bring Calvert’s past into its future.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.