Prior to release of her tenth album Nick of Time in early 1989, and the equally sublime Luck of the Draw two years later, Bonnie Raitt was a bit of a puzzle. For two decades she had been a critic’s darling, starting with her 1971 debut (four stars), Give It Up in 1972 (four and a half stars), 1973’s Takin’ My Time, and Streetlights the following year (again, four out of five stars). Bonnie Raitt did everything musically and every American style well except write prolifically, but her superb ear for finding excellent songs and players meant that she didn’t have to. Yet it is probably fair to say that prior to Nick of Time, after almost twenty years of recording and constant touring, Raitt’s best-known song was her 1977 cover of Del Shannon’s 1961 hit “Runaway”.
Nine albums’ worth of modest sales and little songwriting royalties required Raitt to tour long and hard throughout the Seventies and deep into the Eighties just to keep new strings on her National steel guitar, so the well-known rigors of the road understandably took their toll. Not coincidentally, however, Bonnie’s first post-recovery album Nick of Time, released in March 1989, sold five times more than all previous nine albums combined, thanks to such songs as John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love”, Jerry Lynn Williams’ “Real Man” and the deadly “I Will Not Be Denied”, the gorgeous shimmering “Cry on My Shoulder”, and two terrific Bonnie Hayes compositions,”Love Letter” and reggae-inflected “Have a Heart”.
When Nick of Time rose steadily, eventually becoming the #1-selling album in the US a year after release, no one was more surprised than Bonnie Raitt. When it also won three Grammy Awards including the coveted Album of the Year Grammy in 1990, no one was more appreciative. Nick of Time rests at #492 on Rolling Stone magazine’s most recent Top 500 Albums of All Time list. She thanked everyone in the best possible way by following it up in May 1991 with the even more successful Luck of the Draw (over nine million sold, her biggest ever) containing the huge hit “Something to Talk About”, the groove thang duet with veteran Texan Delbert McClinton on another Grammy winner,”Good Man, Good Woman”, and the sublime “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, racking up another three Grammys. And Bonnie Raitt’s impeccable sense of picking just the right songs has continued twice in the last few years, including on 2012’s solid Slipstream around the time of her Rock Hall induction, and 2016’s excellent Dig in Deep, highly recommended. As you will hear in my 1990 interview, Bonnie name-checks two Texas collaborators sadly now passed, Stephen Bruton and Jerry Lynn Williams. -Redbeard