Bonnie Raitt and Friends

(Capitol)

Matt Herbert
Bonnie Raitt's voice is raspy but smooth, like a bottle of aged bourbon. She plays a mean slide guitar, moving easily between rock and blues. Yet despite overwhelming critical and fan support, it took nearly 20 years for the music industry to recognize her as it finally did in 1990, bestowing four Grammys on Raitt, including album of the year for Nick of Time.

Raitt's come a long way since, and now she's done a VH1 special (released here as a CD/DVD combo) with friends joining her onstage in Atlantic City to help perform her songs. Unfortunately, this trite format does little justice to Raitt's remarkable oeuvre, in spite of the many stars who lend their talents.

Ben Harper makes two appearances, and Norah Jones, Alison Krauss, Jon Cleary, and Keb' Mo' also drop by. Raitt's duet with Mo' on "Love Letter" (from Nick of Time) -- with its thick organ, aching guitar, and funky stomp -- is the album's best collaboration. Mo's deep-blues intonation perfectly complements the sultry songstress.

Though Jones and Krauss are terrific singers, it would've been better to hear such Raitt disciples as Sheryl Crow or Susan Tedeschi mixing it up with their idol.

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