Home Read Albums Of The Week: Bonnie Raitt | Just Like That…

Albums Of The Week: Bonnie Raitt | Just Like That…

More soulful blues-pop – & a dash of Stonesy rock – from the slide-guitar queen.

402

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “With Just Like That…, her 21st album and first new release in more than six years, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bonnie Raitt continues to draw on the range of influences that have shaped her legendary career, while creating something that speaks to the circumstances and challenges of these unprecedented times.

The title comes from a line in one of her new original songs (“Just like that your life can change”), which seemed especially fitting “because there’s never been a time that made me look around and say, ‘Nobody saw this coming’—where all of a sudden, everything shifted.”

As her own tour following 2016’s acclaimed Dig In Deep album was winding down, Raitt got a call from with her friend James Taylor inviting her to hit the road on a bill together. Their tour dates were extended multiple times (even taking them to Europe, concluding with a show alongside Paul Simon in London’s Hyde Park). They were planning to keep going when the world shut down in March 2020.

She did her best to continue playing online fundraisers around the election, social justice, and environmental issues during the pandemic, and when it looked like things were opening up in the summer of 2021, Raitt brought her band to Northern California to rehearse and, for the first time, to record closer to where she lives. “I’ve always wanted to make a record here, and once vaccinations made traveling safe again, we were thrilled to get everyone back together,” says the 10-time Grammy winner. “I think the absolute joy and relief of reuniting to play live music is really palpable on this record.”

The mix of sounds and approaches on Just Like That… reveals how, 50 years after the release of her debut album, Raitt continues to personify what it means to stay creative, adventurous, and daring over the course of a life’s work. “On this record, I wanted to stretch,” she says. “I always want to find songs that excite me, and what’s different this time is that I’ve tried some styles and topics I haven’t touched on before.”

The album’s biggest surprises come from the four songs composed by Raitt. Living For The Ones, co-written with her longtime guitarist George Marinelli, is a rocking dedication to the friends and family she has lost in recent years, while the funky, sardonic Waitin’ For You To Blow, about the devil on Recovery’s shoulder, is equal parts Mose Allison, Eddie Harris, and ‘70s funk. “There’s something thrilling about creating something brand new out of feelings and styles that have always run so deep in me,” she says.

Two songs were inspired by real-life scenarios; Down The Hall began when Raitt read a New York Times story a few years ago about a prison hospice program, and the album’s title track was sparked by a local news segment showing two families deeply impacted on both sides of an organ donation. “My heart was just so blown open,” she says. “I knew both times that these were what I wanted to write about.”

More than just a best-selling artist, respected guitarist, expressive singer, and accomplished songwriter, Raitt has become an institution in American music. Born to a musical family, she is the daughter of celebrated Broadway singer John Raitt and accomplished pianist/singer Marge Goddard. She was raised in Los Angeles in a climate of respect for the arts, Quaker traditions, and a commitment to social activism. A Stella guitar given to her as a Christmas present launched Bonnie on her creative journey at the age of eight. While growing up, though passionate about music from the start, she never considered that it would play a greater role than as one of her many growing interests.

Bonnie continues to use her influence to affect the way music is perceived and appreciated in the world. In 1988, she was one of the co-founders of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, which works to improve royalties, financial conditions, and recognition for a whole generation of R&B pioneers to whom she feels we owe so much. In 1995, she initiated the Bonnie Raitt Guitar Project with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, currently running in 200 clubs around the world, to encourage underprivileged youth to play music as budgets for music instruction in the schools run dry. Bonnie sits on the boards of a number of organizations.

As COVID ravaged the world, Raitt suffered the loss of several close friends and colleagues, including Toots Hibbert and John Prine. In fact, she had spent much of the previous year with Prine, performing at the ceremony when he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and on the Grammy celebration of his receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award. She appears on the compilation released by Prine’s label, Oh Boy Records, in October 2021 — one of the more than 185 outside projects on which Bonnie has participated as a special guest over the years, including work with friends, on soundtracks, and for special benefit albums. Among the highlights are duets with John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, John Raitt, Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Tony Bennett and Ray Charles.

Now 21 albums in, Raitt has never felt more grateful that she can continue making music, contributing to causes, keeping her crew working, connecting with her audience. “I’m really aware of how lucky I am and I feel like my responsibility is to get out there and say something fresh and new — for me and for the fans,” she says. “It’s really daunting not to repeat yourself, but I have to have something to say, or I wouldn’t put out a record.”