Bonnie Raitt: Finest Lovin' Man
I'm embarrassed to admit that for most of my adult life, I had no idea that Bonnie Raitt started her career with such a sweet, clear, authentic voice. At least I'm in good company: as Wikipedia confirms, though critics loved her work from the moment her first album hit the scene in '71, it wasn't until her sixth release that she finally began to hit the singles charts.
By then, of course, though she was still only 27, the years of heavy boozing had long taken their toll, leaving her vocals breathy by comparison, and her preference in production had turned much father towards pop-lite. The critics would never sound so strongly in her favor, but the public had spoken, and - given her string of hits ever since - we can only assume she prefers the limelight to the bottleneck blues.
Bonnie has built her career on the lyrics and melodies of others, so it's worth noting that Finest Lovin' Man is one of only two of Raitt's own compositions on her self-titled debut. But the album, which features straight-up blues renditions of well-selected tunes from Stephen Stills, Robert Johnson, Spider John Koerner and others, is redemptive, an effective antidote to all those years of cheesy late-night ballads.