Bonnie has been my favourite artist for 40 years so it is great to see her back after a seven year hiatus. She has been through some personal problems during that time and as a person of similar age I can sympathise having gone through similar problems myself. This record sees her producing eight of the tracks herself with her road band - Hutch, George and Ricky, with Mike Finnigan replacing Jon Cleary on keyboards. The other four tracks are produced by Joe Henry (Aimee Mann, Bettye Lavette, Susan Tedeschi, Mose Allison, Hugh Laurie etc.) with Joe's 'band', including guitarist Bill Frisell, Greg Leisz, Patrick Warren, David Pitch and Jay Bellerose.
I thought that this alternative band gave a much needed change of sound on Dylan's "Million miles" and "Standing in the doorway", also the beautiful ballad "You can't fail me now". "God only knows" is a stark, haunting, very plaintive way to finish the album and perfectly symbolises the understandable melancholy that suffuses this whole CD.
I'm afraid that I found many of Bonnie's self-produced tracks a bit too familiar sounding - both the band itself and Bonnie's electric slide sound - and on the whole the songs just aren't memorable enough. Three of the songs are by Al Anderson, who also plays guitar, I don't really think he is the right writer for Bonnie with his Nashville AOR - I thought that "Split decision" was dreadful! Having said that Bonnie does sing Al's ballad "Not cause I wanted to" beautifully, it is one of the record's highlights, and her singing throughout is as good as usual. Five of these tracks just feature Bonnie on vocals (rather than vocals AND guitar) and I wonder if we get the best from Bonnie if she isn't also playing guitar (in the same way that people used to say Aretha always sang better when she played piano.)
I guess that producing this album (and the forthcoming tour of the States) is Bonnie's attempt to get back to work and put the past behind her but I can't help wondering how this record would have sounded if she'd let Joe Henry produce the whole thing. As it is everything sounds OK, very professional but for me it doesn't compare with her best work and I would like to see her going back to her more folky blues roots.
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