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Bonnie Raitt would be the first to admit that 1989’s Nick of Time, though wildly successful both critically and commercially, was an unnatural expression of her ballsy redhead nature. Her follow-ups to that Grammy-winning bestseller, 1991’s Luck of the Draw and 1994’s Longing in Their Hearts—also produced by gloss huffer Don Was—were even more polished and grit-free, miles and years away from the booze-soaked blues that made her a teenage star in the ’70s. Raitt’s new safe sound put the now-48-year-old in fine favor with the adult contemporary crowd, but pushed her farther out of touch with herself. With the new Fundamental, Raitt has decided to screw that shiny pop image and get down and dirty with yesteryear. Her 15th studio album is a fun, slinky come-on, with Raitt’s slide guitar creeping like a cat in heat all over the 11 tracks. Producers Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake keep the material stripped, allowing their leading lady plenty of wide-open spaces to purr her Marlboro-and-honey vocals. “The Fundamental Things” and “Meet Me Half Way” are funky midtempo burners intended to keep the proper man in his place, and even mushier fare like “Lover’s Will” and “One Belief Away” get a little heated up before they finish. But as consistently good and balanced as Fundamental is, one song stands out as perhaps the finest (and nastiest) of her career: “Spit of Love” is vintage Raitt and then some, with enough rowdy, self-penned lyrics (“There’s a howlin at my window, baby/I hear him closin in/That green-eyed jackal’s got the scent/Knows I’ll let him in”) and libido-buzzing guitar to get even the staunchest prude into a horned-up fervor. Raitt may be closing in on the big 5-0, but when this woman’s burnin’ down low, there isn’t a sexier person in rock.

—Sean Daly