Bonnie Raitt's Inexorable Rhythm Page 2

"If those two worlds were gonna be on the same record," Freeland said in a recent interview with me, "I guess they thought it would be a good idea to keep the engineer the same, so that the sonic perspective would have some cohesion to it."

Asked about his mission on Dig In Deep, and about what he and Raitt discuss when it comes to recording, Freeland is direct. "Her relationship with the engineer and the sound of her records has always been a very, very important part of the process to her. It's no small thing. The sonics of the record is no small part of the impact it has on the audience. My mission was to capture what's going on and not be too heavy-handed with manipulating what's already great. Which is harder than it sounds. Sometimes, capturing that stuff takes a lot of nuance."

Some of those nuances are in the recording of Raitt's voice. Freeland, recording in Pro Tools using Apogee A/D converters, took a novel approach in recording Raitt's vocals. "It's a little funny to admit this, but I ended up using three mikes [simultaneously], which I think is kind of silly. But I used a Neumann M49 and then an AEA A440, and that's what I've been doing on almost everybody for the last few years. Bonnie also uses a Telefunken 251. It's a brighter mike. It works really well on her voice. In my mind, I thought I would end up picking two of them, but then we got so deep into it on takes that I was, like, 'Ah, screw it—we'll just keep all three up, I guess.'

"The fun thing is that because they all have such different tonalities, you can kinda reblend them to get different sounds for songs on a per-song basis. If it's an edgier song, you can kind of push the brighter mikes; if it's mellow, you make it woollier and fuller. It's kind of fun, as an engineer, that instead of messing with EQs or anything like that, I can kind of blend microphone choices."

Balls—as in sonic cojones, some punch to the mix—seems to be the most attractive word for describing the mix of Dig In Deep. "As you've heard, it's a tough record. It's got a lot of balls," Freeland said. "I wanted to follow that idea and make the sonics tough, but it's still beautiful, and has all those things that really work for her music."

"I wanna work up to using the word balls," says Raitt. "He's able to be . . . he can follow whatever style of music, and my range is pretty broad. He's true to the spirit of the song, and he really gets it. He gets not only the musicians and the instruments they are playing, but he mikes them in a great way. His choice of microphones is impeccable, as is his mike placement. Ryan is just able to create a fantastically organic and live sound, and get everything sounding exactly the way it's coming off the instruments. And he's able to make my voice sound great.

"He makes music that has punch and heft to it on the bottom end, as well as being able to leave room for all the sensitivity on the top and mid. He's got balls and . . ." [breaks out laughing]

Dig In Deep will be released as high-resolution downloads and as two 45rpm, 180gm LPs. Kim Rosen was the mastering engineer, and the lacquers were cut by Cameron Henry at a studio called Welcome To 1979, in Nashville, a choice Freeland suggested. He heartily approves of the results.

"It's a much more musical sound. Sometimes I get [lacquers] back from guys, and it doesn't have the same soul as the original file. They changed it. You have to make certain changes to get into vinyl, but, like any other art form, there are ways to do it that can retain the integrity of the original concept."

Dig In Deep's testosterone-heavy mix, which nevertheless is not excessively loud and has lots of dynamic range, really suits the album's many up-tempo numbers. In the brilliantly titled "The Comin' Round Is Going Through," Raitt thankfully shows no signs of slowing down to live in a more ballad-oriented world. She still likes to rock. She also remains committed to the political activism that has always been a part of her music.

"With "The Comin' Round Is Going Through," I knew I wanted to musically add another kind of a Stones, four-on-the-floor rocker, because this band just kills that groove, whether we do 'Me and the Boys' or a [Fabulous] T-Birds tune—that's one of the places we go. I was trying to think what would go with that style and I knew I had been brewing to write a song about how pissed off I was at how the system of democracy is broken in this country and hijacked by big money and corporations. Regardless of which side of the aisle you're on, everybody agrees—the system is broken, and people at the top are making too much. And so I just kinda made it pretty general, verse by verse, just getting the outrage and bile out, so I could go onstage and sing it every night, especially in an election year. It's really healing. We got in the studio and just let it rip, and it really felt good."

The moderately rocking "What You're Doing to Me" is a gospel-flavored tune on which Raitt plays piano—and works into her lyrics the term Sturm and Drang.

After all that sturm and drang I gave up long ago
One too many times around and nothin' left to show

"I was hoping somebody would ask me about it! [much laughter] I knew I was either gonna get grief for it, or somebody was going to say 'Cool!' I've used that expression for years, maybe from growing up in the theater or something. And every once in a while I'll just throw it out there. I was looking for something that felt like that to me, and it just fit right in there. I love playing piano, though I don't do it that often. And I never play a gospel shuffle the way I do at sound check or at my house, so I just wrote a song so I could play it live.

"'What You're Doing to Me,' even if it's wishful thinking or a fantasy, it's something everybody deals with when love can get kinda thorny or you just had a long dry spell. I mean, I've been in a relationship for a long time, but it's really fun to be able to sing lyrics like that, about how somebody makes you feel."

When it comes to feelings, the familial deaths that filled Raitt's life in the early aughts have returned in the form of friends passing. Several days before Raitt and I spoke, Glenn Frey, of the Eagles, suddenly died. David Bowie and Allen Toussaint had died just weeks before.

"Oh, man. B.B. [King] as well. And I knew Otis Clay. It's just been way too many. I really was tight with Allen, ever since we first met in the early Warner Bros. days. And the Meters and I—we were all close. And I loved his records. And I'd see him every time I played Jazz Fest [the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival]. We'd go to each other's gigs and sit in. It was a true, soulful connection and deep friendship, and it was such a shock, but I'm so grateful he went out doing what he loved. What an incredible, unique contribution. What a unique, integrous person he was."


Allen Fant's picture

Excellent review!

volvic's picture

Love her new CD and we just saw her at the Beacon a week ago, moved my wife to tears. A beautiful performer love and respect her so much.

Sal1950's picture

Being a big Bonnie Raitt fan, after reading the article that was published in the April magazine I was very excited to get this new release. Robert wrote in that version that Bonnie was so happy to hear that audiophiles would be interested in hearing her on a "audiophile format". Well I guess they must have been referring to the vinyl release as the 24/96 download from HDTracks is not what I would consider a audiophile release. The over all sound is good enough but I was very sad to find out this album was a terrible victim of the sound wars. It had been horribly squashed to a dynamic range of DR7 and is better suited to a MP3 download. Sorry Bonnie but Dig In Deep in it's High Resolution Audio version has been smashed flat and has NO BALLS, a BIG disappointment! :(

Analyzed: Dig In Deep / Artist: Bonnie Raitt
DR Peak RMS Duration Title [codec]
DR7 -0.00 dB -8.96 dB 4:49 01 - Unintended Consequence Of Love [flac]
DR7 -0.02 dB -9.01 dB 3:18 02 - I Need You Tonight [flac]
DR7 -0.00 dB -9.38 dB 4:00 03 - I Knew [flac]
DR10 -0.09 dB -12.63 dB 3:10 04 - All Alone With Something To Say [flac]
DR6 -0.00 dB -8.28 dB 4:53 05 - What You're Doin' To Me [flac]
DR6 -0.01 dB -7.12 dB 4:50 06 - Shakin' Shakin' Shakes [flac]
DR8 -0.03 dB -13.22 dB 4:12 07 - Undone [flac]
DR7 -0.01 dB -9.43 dB 5:09 08 - If You Need Somebody [flac]
DR7 -0.00 dB -9.08 dB 4:08 09 - Gypsy In Me [flac]
DR7 -0.02 dB -8.53 dB 5:28 10 - The Comin' Round Is Going Through [flac]
DR7 -0.11 dB -10.61 dB 4:08 11 - You've Changed My Mind [flac]
DR9 -0.14 dB -13.41 dB 4:13 12 - The Ones We Couldn't Be [flac]
Number of files: 12
Official DR value: DR7

Sampling rate: 96000 Hz
Average bitrate: 3092kbs
Bits per sample: 32 bit