Release Date: May 27, 2016
Record label: Thirty Tigers
Hollow bass cascading over a sunken groove, slinky guitar etching the melody and a palpable humidity establish “Show A Little Mercy,” as a satiny ribbon wisp of alto turns to a slightly raw guttural moan from Bonnie Bishop, the once country roots singer turned retro-soul chanteuse. The canvas—somewhere between Motown’s earthiest, Muscle Shoals’ tempered funk and blaxploitation’s lean arrangements—suits the woman who provided Bonnie Raitt’s recent high watermark “Not Cause I Wanted To. ” But where Raitt’s fire, razors and blood, Bishop walks a softer line—more feathery and molten caramel—in her witness to life’s struggles, victories and reinventions.
Bonnie Bishop has been plugging away at a country music career for over a decade and, while not a household name, she has experienced some significant successes. Bonnie Raitt covered her song “Not Cause I Wanted To” (co-written with NRBQ’s Big Al Anderson) on her Grammy Award-winning Slipstream in 2013, and it was voted a Song of the Year by the New York Times. Another of her compositions of her compositions was given voice by the character Rayna James on the ABC series Nashville.
A few years ago Bonnie Bishop had what many Nashville songwriters would consider an enviable break, when “Nashville” — the unctuous prime-time soap opry, now on its way to cancellation but then a rampaging hit for ABC — featured one of her songs as an anthem. It was “The Best Songs Come From Broken Hearts,” a signature tear-jerker for Rayna James, the fictional country star played by Connie Britton. In one of the show’s more cathartic moments, she performed the song as part of a vital comeback, reactivating a voice that she’d feared lost.
Bonnie Bishop, originally from Houston, had a go-round in Central Texas lasting 13 years and five albums of country, folk, and blues in the early part of the new century. Despite being a hard worker, she never reached more than a moderate-sized audience. While spending time in Nashville, Bishop had a physical and mental breakdown over a lack of career advancement, ending up back with her parents in Wimberley.