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Even a quick listen to Souls Alike, the eighteenth album in this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's remarkable career, reveals a number of surprises. It's her first album ever to bear the credit Produced by Bonnie Raitt. Conspicuously absent is even one of her signature 12-bar blues stomps. And where most of her projects have contained a mix of songs written by both celebrated songwriters and her own new discoveries, usually with some original material, all eleven compositions on Souls Alike come from lesser-known writers with whom Raitt feels a deep affinity and whose work she wants to champion. That connection-together with a flourishing creative collaboration with her beloved touring band and co-producer/engineer Tchad Blake-provided the lifeblood and inspiration for the album's direction, and even its title. It marks a brave, exhilarating step in a legendary body of work. Capitol. 2005.
After almost 35 years of recording, Bonnie Raitt knows exactly who she is and what she wants, as Souls Alike, the first self-produced album of her career, attests. Though Raitt wrote none of the material, the selection bears her imprint and highlights both her strengths and her range. The album's opening "I Will Not Be Broken" provides the sort of signature, stick-to-your-guns affirmation for Raitt that "My Way" did for Frank Sinatra and "I Won't Back Down" did for Tom Petty. Two songs written by pianist Jon Cleary, "Love on One Condition" and "Unnecessary Mercenary," reflect the Little Feat-in-New Orleans side to Raitt's music, while the reggae underpinnings of "God Was in the Water," the electro-worldbeat of "Deep Water," and the slide-guitar funk of "Trinkets" find her settling naturally into a variety of grooves. Though she makes a sharp left turn into the sonic surrealism of "Crooked Crown," she returns to the reflective balladry that has marked her musical maturity with "So Close," "I Don't Want Anything to Change," and the jazzy sophistication of the closing "The Bed I Made." While there are few surprises here, the album ranks with the most soul-satisfying of Raitt's career. --Don McLeese
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