After hearing her set, I set out to find some of Raitt's early recordings, which I had never heard. (Basically, I grew up listening to Nick of Time, which is what my parents played around the house. Not that Nick of Time is a bad album, but why do the Boomers always get hooked on mid-career material from artists that put out blazing stuff in the early 70s? Toward that end, I also think that the marketing of the I Am Sam soundtrack to the "adult contemporary" audience damaged a lot of Beatles collections out there, but that's just me.) Today I finally picked up her self-titled debut from 1971.
Once again, I am impressed at how deftly Raitt combines traditional blues, New Orleans romps, and the West Coast singer-songwriter sound on her early albums. And it's a nice perk that "Any Day Woman" sounds like it could be a Townes Van Zandt song (it's not, and she didn't actually write it, but what a nice tone to add to the record). Not to mention, the ultimate wtf moment, reading that Junior Wells plays harp. It's a testament to Raitt's diversity of sound that her back-up musicians include a bar-band from Minneapolis (the Bumblebees) and staples of the Chicago blues scene (Wells, plus A.C. Reed, a member of Buddy Guy's band at the time). Not to mention she plays songs by Stephen Stills and Robert Johnson and the record still feels like a solid whole.
I'm not sure why I've gone on a particular binge of woman singers and songwriters lately, but it's gotten me thinking about why so many of us boys grew up listening to mostly male singers in our youths. (Okay, speaking for myself here, but this is clearly a trend.) When I was 15, I used to think that every member of a band had to play an instrument in order for the band to be legit (e.g., Beatles = good, Rolling Stones = okay). That's changed. Clearly. Because that is stupid fucking criteria for music. But at that time I also had a similar bias against pretty much all woman singers (except Laura Nyro, see previous post). Again, stupid fucking criteria. I'm glad I've outgrown the part of me that thought that way when I was 15. Any guys who still think that way, let's talk.
I watched The Runaways last night and the not-so-subtle theme resonated in light of these thoughts: that men don't want to see women with guitars on stage. I wonder what it will take to make that change. I think probably not Lady Gaga. Maybe more Bonnie Raitts.