Nick Of Time

Bonnie Raitt

Capitol Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Vulnerability is a great asset to artists. For most confessional singers, it's their muse. And Bonnie Raitt, while not classified as a confessional singer, is one who put her vulnerability to great use in what was one of the greatest comebacks in music history in her album, Nick Of Time.

Sure, some of the album has an overt VH-1 feel to it. Some songs are a bit too country for listeners but she professes a true love for the blues and judging by the guest list on the album and the pain she pours out throughout the album, she truely can play the blues and sing them.

The album was born out of a decade of hard drinking and drug use by Raitt. Dropped from her former label, it was by sheer grace she was signed to Capitol. The music on Nick Of Time comes from an artist who truely knows how not only drugs, but sobriety can change your life. From the opening title track (one of only two songs on the album that Raitt wrote herself) you get an album that is easy to listen to, but is heart-wrenching at times.

With sobriety, you leave some of your closest friends. Some of them may be lovers. With sobriety, you are forced to deal with the myth, "You think you're having a good time now, you would be having a lot better time if you were fucked up." Or "You write and sing your best stuff when you're twisted." And kudos for Raitt to admit that those myths may have some truth to them.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Leaving that hard living lifestyle leaves a void. A void much like losing a boyfriend or girlfriend. A void almost like denouncing your religion. And in the heatbreaking ballad, "Too Soon To Tell", you hear Raitt sing with grittiness, "You want to hear/I won't drown in my tears/but baby all that I can say is/That it's too soon to tell."

Not all of Nick Of Time is whine material. Far from it. On "Love Letter", Raitt delivers a confident tale of longing, but from a character who has no problems going at it on her own. In the bitterly brilliant "I Will Not Be Denied," she plays a character who is fed up with being left to hang one too many times. Grammar fans will cringe when Raitt sings, "Yes you know you always was deadly...". But she uses the improper grammar to get you to notice her struggle. In the final chorus, all tenses are right, bringing the point home with a vengeance, "Yes you knew you always were...deadly". When she finally sings, "I will not be denied", it's not only a declaration, it's a testamonial to her own strength to go at it alone.

Other highlights on the album include they honkey-tonk shuffle of, "Real Man", another great song that deals with a woman who will not settle for men who either are too flashy or are too mushy to handle a woman like Raitt. In the great shufflin' beat of "Thing Called Love," Raitt declares, "We can live in fear/but I've got a home." Well, she didn't say it, John Hiatt actually wrote it, but she makes the line sound like it came from the very depths of her pained soul.

The more I look at Nick Of Time, the fewer flaws I seen it it. Even the VH-1 targeted songs like, "Have A Heart" and "Cry On My Shoulder" have enough sorrow or great musicianship in them to make them feel legit.

Like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Raitt turned her life around in the late '80s and early '90s. Unfortunately, only one of those voices can still be heard making new material. With Nick Of Time, Raitt got the most critical and commercial success in her life. She would continue to reap rewards with Luck Of The Draw, her next album. And unlike many artists who preach the benefits of going at it clean, Raitt is one of those few artists who acknowledge the pain that comes from watching your friends have a great time at the bars while you try to compensate for that loss. Luckily,she has a great talent for playing the blues and writing great songs to document the loss.

Raitt's sweep of the Grammies was one of the greatest moments in Grammy history. For the first time in a long time, an artist who produced the work won. Blues prudes may complain that the album is too flashy in some parts, but it only enhances the quality of the material on Nick Of Time. On top of that, Nick Of Time stands as one of the best album to have while you're having Jack and cokes on your front porch. Ahh...savor the irony. Or don't. Just pick up the album.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1998 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.