Gritty, rockin’, bluesy, country, wistful, whip-smart – there just aren’t enough adjectives to describe the hot Americana that comes from Bonnie Bishop. In a way, such descriptives do her music an injustice because Bishop’s music is no easy-to-categorize pop Americana.
The best way to understand her sound is to just listen to the music on her new release Free. She takes listeners on a sonic trip through the best parts of Americana, but come to understand the Nashville songwriter behind the tunes. Like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and other Americana songwriting icons, Bishop used personal pain to fuel her artistry.
Doubt it? Listen to the “Best Songs Come From Broken Hearts,” and you’ll undoubtedly realize that the plaintive, rasping sorrow Bishop exuded in her vocals -- with lyrics that include ‘I fell from a dream/it was not what it seemed/by the time I woke up I had lost everything/thought I’d die without you/I came to life without you/God has a way of working things out/If it was not for the music where would I be now/ I’m gonna write about you/you bet I’m gonna write about you’ – could only come from a shattered heart. And that’s not even getting into the painfully personal lyrics.
It’s easy to listen to Bishop’s music without knowing anything about her and let your thoughts drift to Bonnie Raitt. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, to find these two kindred musical spirits follow each other’s music with Raitt recently recording Bishop’s song “Not ‘Cause I Wanted To.’
In discussing her new album, Bishop talks about the fundamental changes she has undergone in the past few years as a result of her heartache. Pain, humility, personal accountability and a strong spiritual faith are among her life lessons. NANCY DUNHAM