- - Monday, April 9, 2012

Slipstream

Bonnie Raitt

Redwing Records

★★★½

Bonnie Raitt gives everyone something to talk about with “Slipstream,” her most convincing album in decades.

The singer was dealt blow after blow during the seven years that separated her last album from her current release, with the deaths of her parents, brother and best friend doing the most damage. Here, she funnels her grief into a set of warm, well-worn blues songs.

“Slipstream” is a gorgeous record, its 12 tunes filled to the brim with gauzy Hammond organ and Southern-styled slide guitar riffs, but it’s Miss Raitt’s voice - a soulful purr that sounds smooth and sturdy at the same time, like beaten leather - that gives “Slipstream” its rootsy authenticity.

Being the queen of modern-day Americana hasn’t sapped Miss Raitt’s work ethic. Rather than cool her heels in the vocal booth while her top-notch backup band lays down every track, she rolls up her sleeves and gets to work herself, playing a blistering guitar solo one minute and strumming her way through a lush, midtempo groove the next. Miss Raitt isn’t just a singer; she’s a musician, and it’s nice to see her getting into the thick of things.

As usual, she does rely on a few outsiders when it comes to writing the songs. Most of her biggest hits from previous decades - “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” “Something To Talk About,” “Love Sneaking Up On You” - were written by others, and “Slipstream” strikes a similar balance between original material and cover tunes. The covers are well-known tunes by the likes of Bob Dylan and Gerry Rafferty, though, and “Slipstream” winds up functioning as a sort of stylistic link between Miss Raitt and her 20th century influences, proof that there’s not much difference between their craft and hers.

Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation)

Counting Crows

Collective Sounds

★★½

Also paying tribute to their influences are the Counting Crows, who fill their sixth album with songs originally recorded by the Faces, Fairport Convention and others.

“Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation)” suffers from the same problems that haunt most cover albums. Some of the recordings steer too closely to the original versions, while others shoot themselves far into left field, sacrificing the songs’ best qualities for the sake of trying something new. Also, when a band regularly takes as long as six years to release a new album, you can’t help but wish for something more substantial than a straightforward cover of the Byrds’ “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.”

There are some hidden treasures here, though. The guys tip their hats to Dawes, leader of a younger generation of American country rockers, with a sweeping cover of “All My Failures,” and they celebrate one of the genre’s pioneers with a rocked-up version of the Gram Parsons classic “Return of the Grievous Angel.” For longtime Crows fans, the tracklist also includes songs by Tender Mercies and Sordid Humor, two ‘80s bands whose members banded together to form Counting Crows during the following decade.

Music, TV and film industries team up for “Dirty Dancing” reboot

When “Glee” began airing its first season in May 2009, the show wasn’t an immediate hit. It took the surprise popularity of “Don’t Stop Believing,” an ‘80s power ballad performed by the show’s own cast members, to convince TV executives that “Glee” had broad potential. Here was a TV show that affected the music world, too, a show whose popularity could be measured in Nielsen ratings as well as Billboard chart listings.

Now, “Glee” co-creator Brad Falchuk is throwing his weight behind a remake of “Dirty Dancing.” Released in 1987, the original film experienced some major crossover success of its own, sending two separate soundtracks to the upper reaches of the Billboard charts along with three multiplatinum singles: “She’s Like The Wind,” “Hungry Eyes” and the monster hit “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”

Those working on the remake, currently scheduled for a summer 2013 release, hope to rope in movie nuts and music fans in equal measure. Kenny Ortega, who choreographed the original “Dirty Dancing” before reinventing himself as the mastermind behind the “High School Musical” series, will direct the film. Script writer Eleanor Bergstein, who also created the stage adaption of “Dirty Dancing” in 2004, will co-produce.

Will “Dirty Dancing” be a multiplatform blockbuster or an expensive flop? We’re betting on the former. After all, nobody puts Baby in a corner.

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