"The Fundamental Things" announces the album's intentions--"Let's run naked through these city streets"--and then illustrates the metaphor with gobs of slide, lazy horn parts Raitt wrote herself, and dimly moaned vocal interjections. Blake doesn't unloose as many noises here as on the aural archive he crafted for Los Lobos's Latin Playboys project. But throughout he assures that Raitt's usual complement of felt, well-crafted songs will sound more homemade and overheard than the well-meaning Was could tolerate. Standouts: "Cure for Love," which multi-instrumentalist, backup vocalist, and erstwhile Latin Playboy David Hidalgo would own if Raitt hadn't left her voiceprints all over it, and the J.B. Lenoir blues "Round and Round," antiqued to a fare-thee-well over percussion that could be some exotic drum or an empty box of Havanas.
The material flattens slightly about halfway through, and the production gets straighter as well. But in a musical world where "Everything's carefully prearranged," Raitt has thrown a Birkenstock in the works, and the clatter sounds like life itself. After 27 years, 15 albums, and nine Grammys, we should all be impressed--and grateful--that she felt the need.
Rolling Stone, 1998