Souls Alike is the first album in Bonnie Raitt's 18-disc catalog to bear her own name as producer with some assistance from Tchad Blake. It is also the first album in her career absent a 12-bar blues. Gone are the big washes of sound that Don Was added to her Grammy-winning recordings, and the sound Raitt has chosen for herself is a bit edgier, far more adventurous than Silver Lining, her last studio offering produced by Blake. Guitars -- courtesy of the artist and George Marinelli -- dominate, and are accented by Jon Cleary's Hammond B3, which paints the entire proceeding with a solid, somewhat funky yet outsider soul feel. Raitt keeps everything close to the vest this time out. Her road band and a handful of guests who include Mitchell Froom, Maia Sharp, David Batteau, and Sweet Pea Atkinson carried this project to fruition. What's most remarkable about Souls Alike is its songs and their focus on broken love, acceptance of responsibility, and the willingness to transcend. Cleary, Sharp, and Batteau wrote a number of tracks, as did John Capek, who provides drum loops on some cuts. It's all in the family for the most part. The songs themselves reflect on self-determination (the gorgeous title cut) in Raitt's trademark rock ballad style, Randall Bramblett's greasy, dark and slinky "God Was in the Water," the angular, ultra-modern "Crooked Crown," the grimy New Orleans second-line groove of Cleary's "Unnecessary Mercenary" with a killer slide break by Raitt and an off-the-rails piano by Cleary. Then there's the near-trip-hop of "Deep Water," a deeply sensual tune that is a shock on first listen but infectious thereafter. "The Bed I Made," by Sharp and Batteau is the album's closer. With a shimmery loop and Raitt's finest vocal on the set, it's a faux jazz-ballad that is unsettling, full of bittersweet regret and the willingness to embrace the face in the mirror and the mistakes as a way of moving through pain. It's a rather unsettling way to end an album, but then, this entire disc is brave and sharp. It marks a new turn for Raitt and offers her and her fans an entirely new road to go down -- this one deep into the heart.
Souls Alike Review
by Thom Jurek