With her road band laying the groundwork and with production responsibilities reverted primarily to her own hands, Raitt delivers varied and vivid performances throughout Silver Lining. Jon Cleary, an addition to the lineup, plays the pivotal role; his piano drives the steaming New Orleans groove on "Fool's Game," the posturing street funk of "Monkey Business," and the dusty blues tread on the acoustic-textured "No Gettin' Over You." The material, culled from American and African songwriters, along with a few Raitt originals, lends itself more to vocal interpretation than to straight-ahead blowing. Raitt's singing has never been more finely tuned, especially on the introspective title cut and on the final track, "Wounded Heart," a breathtaking duet recorded in one take with keyboardist Benmont Tench; after nailing it, Raitt reportedly fled the studio, moved to tears; any second attempt proved both undoable and unnecessary. On these performances Raitt exceeds her own standards for interpreting a lyric without compromise to her full-throated timbre. To balance these reflective moments, there are plenty of hotter ones; these also focus on the vocal, but with some exceptional guitar accompaniment as well, including Steve Cropper's licks on the low-key, Memphis-flavored "Time of Our Lives" and the greasy rhythms that push the band throughout "Gnawin' on It." Incendiary slide guitar work heats up parts of that track and several others, with another slide legend, Roy Rogers, joining in on the lascivious "Gnawin' on It." Still, Silver Lining is ultimately a showcase for exceptional singing and riveting backup work. It is also a likely milestone in Raitt's ongoing transition from blues guitar whiz to an artist of wider focus. The fires of her youth still blaze, though now they illuminate a more complex weave of techniques and a much greater depth of emotion.
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AllMusic Review by Robert L. Doerschuk