Bonnie Raitt Inspires on Album ‘Just Like That…’

on June 9, 2022 No comments
by Tina Benitez-Eves

Watching a human interest segment on the news in 2018, Bonnie Raitt couldn’t pull away from the story of a woman who donated her child’s organ and was about to meet the recipient of her son’s heart for the first time. The man sat with her and asked if she would like to put her head on his chest so she could hear her son’s heart. “I just lost it,” says Raitt. “It was the most moving and surprising thing. I wasn’t expecting it. I vowed right then that I wanted to write a song about what that would take.”

Riveted by the idea of how families can make the life-altering decision in one of the most difficult moments, Raitt began writing the lyrics to “Just Like That,” the corner piece of her eighteenth album. 

“Every time I hear about a family donating organs when their child has been killed, or there’s some sort of sudden death—as if you’re not in grief and shock enough—to have the view and the compassion and the love to be able to pay it forward like that is so incredible,” says Raitt, “and the kindness of the recipient, and what that must feel like for them.”

In May of 2018, Raitt was also affected by a story she read in The New York Times Magazine about a prison hospice program in Vacaville, California where inmates work as caregivers for fellow terminal convicts. Staggered by her reaction to the intimate photographs and stories of volunteers devoting their time to those incarcerated at the end of their lives, she wrote her own story on “Down the Hall,” singing from the perspective of the caretakers: I asked if they let family in / She said not really at the end / Truth is a lot don’t have someone, no friends or next of kin / The thought of those guys going out alone, it hit me somewhere deep / I asked could go sit with them, for some comfort and relief.

“I just immediately felt how many segregated, separated, polarized segments of our population out in society are reflected in microcosms in prisons,” says Raitt. “Those pictures, without any explanation, were such a beautiful testimony of how the need of one human being to have compassion from another, and empathy, and care was just so moving. I’m moved by it now. I can barely sing those songs without getting touched again.”

Drawn to these two news stories amid a flurry of hatred and inequality happening in real-time within the U.S., Raitt had the pillars of Just Like That…, a collection of humanistic stories that moved her to write and look back on previous times. 

An affinity for The Gift of the Magi and early 20th century short stories by O. Henry to reflection on the loss of friend John Prine, who died on April 7, 2020, and his first songs “Donald and Lydia” and “Angel of Montgomery,” and further references to Bob Dylans’ earlier acoustic story songs, helped Raitt capture the modesty of the narratives she needed to deliver. 

“Those story songs, Prine and Jackson and Paul Brady from Ireland, and Bob Dylan was really what I wanted to do on those two songs,” says Raitt, “to come from that fingerpicking simplicity of just a person on the guitar.”

Bonnie Raitt by Shervin Lainez

On Just Like That… Raitt revisits songs she’s meant to cover for years like “Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart,” by NRBQ’s Al Anderson, which was ringing in her head for three decades. Then she paid homage to Toots and the Maytals with a cover of “Love So Strong,” a song she originally planned to duet with her friend Toots Hibbert before his untimely death from COVID in 2020. Instead, Raitt turned the song into a tribute to the reggae artist. Opening on the bluesier uptempo “Made Up Mind” by alt-country group The Bros. Landreth, who she had friended nearly a decade earlier at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Raitt also found a place for her rendition of “Here Comes Love” by the California Honeydrops, a song she initially cut during her Dig In Deep session in 2015.

Returning to work on Just Like That…when her international tour with James Taylor was halted due to the pandemic in March 2020, Raitt also continued performing for fundraising live streams around social justice, environmental issues, and the election. She then jumped at an open pocket of space to rehearse with her band for the first time in 2021. 

“It’s like putting together a great meal,” says Raitt of her 10 song selections. “I’m not a terrific cook, but I appreciate why you wouldn’t want to put this vegetable with that vegetable when this one will be a better match. I want to say something new on every record, and with 21 albums, man, I’ve covered a lot of territory of what can go wrong in a love affair. Those blues guitar licks on ‘Made Up Mind,’ I could have been singing a song about a laundromat and I still would’ve cut it.”

Roused by jazz musicians like Eddie Harris, Mose Allison, Raitt tells a wicked tale of a devil sitting on someone’s shoulder with a throwback to 1970s funk on “Waitin’ For You to Blow.” 

“There’s something thrilling about creating something brand new out of feelings and styles that have always run so deep in me,” she says. “I wanted to stretch on this record and do something different for me, and for the fans. To do those acoustic fingerpicking story songs was one way, and the other way was funk. I’ve always loved how funk and R&B and jazz intersect.”

Elaborating on the “Waitin’ For You to Blow” subject, Raitt, who is coming up on 35 years sober, always had this vision of a devil sitting on her shoulders, waiting for her to slip up. “It’s not even about whether you’re going to drink or use drugs, or it’s sex or exercise or whatever your drug is,” she says. “It’s every day where you don’t stay in bed and watch that movie another hour, or tell those little white lies to people, these kinds of slippery behaviors. There’s that little devil trying to urge you to ‘why not keep going.’” Raitt referenced Randy Newman and Warren Zevon, and songs like “Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley to capture the essence of the track. “I love those kinds of sardonic, sarcastic point of view songs where it gets the message across much better, especially when there’s a funky beat or it’s a rock and roll song.”

The horns and breaks, and jazzier keyboard chords of a funk song were already in her head, as Raitt conceived the entire arrangement, inspired by the jazz fusion of groups like The Crusaders, the backing bands of Joe Cocker and Paul Simon. “There’s no reason to give it a name,” says Raitt, catching her band off guard after suggesting a shuffle in the bridge. “It’s as jazz as it is funk as it is blues and rock. Ray Charles had it. James Brown had it.”

Interspersed with original material and covers, Raitt offered another one of her story-songs on the contemplative ballad “Living for the Ones,” motivated by losses around the pandemic and co-written with her longtime guitarist George Marinelli. “This song was written specifically about what we’ve been going through the last couple of years,” reveals Raitt. She added that the election brought her to her knees with the “vitriol and lies and delusions” she fears are threatening democracy along with the encroachment of “fascist elements” within our society. “It’s never been as bad as it’s been now in my lifetime,” adds Raitt. “I’m incredibly inclined to go find a cabin somewhere, put my head under a pillow, and not come out again.”

For Raitt, the pain, heartbreak, stress, and anxiety centered around the climate crisis and the devastation around the world, which she says has been caused by richer nations not managing emissions or making polluters pay and being proactive and making safe energy work. The Black Lives Matter movement also moved Raitt, due to the “visceral sickening horror of watching George Floyd’s murder,” and the ensuing realization of how often this has been happening.

Adding to the massive collection of losses in her album notes, Raitt began making a list of people she wanted to honor and dedicate the album to but had to stop at 14 for fear of having paragraphs of names. “I learned about loss, how my reaction could be to it, and gaining strength to keep going,” says Raitt, whose brother, musician Steve Raitt, died in 2009 at the age of 61 after an eight-year battle with brain cancer, right before she lost another friend and many others within her age group to cancer and heart disease and even suicide in the years that followed.

Partially dedicated to her brother, “Living for the Ones” is also a dedication to the ones everyone has lost. “I wanted to sing a song about what I started to do when my brother passed away, which was live for the life he didn’t get to have every day. He went blind and he couldn’t walk in the last month of his life, and every day that I can swing my legs across the bed and stand up, every day I open my eyes and I can look out, I’m not complaining. I’m gonna make it through for the ones that didn’t get to.”

More than 50 years since Raitt debuted with her self-titled album, four decades on from Green Light, and the superfluous anniversaries that come with more than five decades of music-making, Raitt doesn’t have any far-fetched aspirations. She just wants to play live again. She comes from a lineage of lifers, working till the end, like her father, actor and singer John Raitt, who continued to perform through the age of 86. 

“I come from some stock [of artists] in blues and jazz and Broadway world where people didn’t retire,” says Raitt. “Everybody’s always saying that they’re going to retire. Why should I retire? What would I do? I’d be bored to death.”

She adds, “I’m in a world of other musicians that I think are doing their best work now. Mick [Jagger] and Keith [Richards] and Paul McCartney… these people don’t show any signs of flailing or losing their jobs. People are just getting richer and deepening if you’re blessed enough to have good health and not coast on your laurels and do less good material. You have to keep being excellent and caring, or it doesn’t work.”

Now 72, Raitt feels lucky, alive, and grateful to still have something to say, and the ability to share it with the world again. “We all hope we stay in good health,” says Raitt. “I hope I can still sing. If not, I’ll just stand up at the side of [the] stage and watch. I’ll get some YouTube person to win a contest and sing my parts for me and give them a Bonnie Raitt wig.” Raitt adds, “I’ll just keep shape-shifting and watch on the side of the stage, or maybe I’ll play my slide guitar sitting in a chair, or be in the band and dress up as the person that’s dressed up as me.”

Thinking of the reality of her life and career with some jest, Raitt honestly doesn’t see the end of her musical road anytime soon.

“I hope I get to do it another 15 years,” shares Raitt. “I really do. I just keep looking at Keith and Mick and go ‘all right, I’ll keep doing it.’”


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Source: © Copyright American Songwriter

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Bonnie Raitt’s Just Like That… Expands a Legendary Catalog
Taking stock of the blues and roots hero’s extensive career ahead of her visit to the Ryman

on May 25, 2022 No comments
Brittney McKenna

Releasing more than 20 albums during one’s career is an extraordinary feat in itself. But to do so with the spirit and virtuosity of Bonnie Raitt is another thing entirely. The beloved singer-songwriter and guitar slinger has racked up accolade upon accolade as her discography has unfolded over the past five-plus decades. She’s become one of blues and roots music’s most respected and decorated artists in the process. On her 21st LP Just Like That…, released in April — that count of 21 includes her two live albums, because they are no mere stopgaps — Raitt shows no sign of slowing down.

Just Like That… follows Raitt’s 2016 album Dig in Deep, a widely acclaimed record that, among other recognition, notched Raitt an Artist of the Year nomination at that year’s Americana Music Honors and Awards. Raitt’s 2012 album Slipstream, Dig in Deep and Just Like That… were all released via her own Redwing Records label, which she launched a decade ago.

Playing May 26 and 27 at the Ryman

Raitt recorded Just Like That… last summer in Sausalito, Calif., producing the album herself alongside recording and mixing engineer Ryan Freeland. Her studio band was a mix of longtime collaborators and new blood, including veteran bandmates James “Hutch” Hutchinson on bass and Ricky Fataar on drums. Relative newcomers Kenny Greenberg and Glenn Patscha joined the group on guitar and keys, respectively, while Raitt’s old friend George Marinelli lent guitar work to “Livin’ for the Ones.”

While most of Just Like That… is made up of covers, Raitt wrote four new songs for the outing. Highlights of Raitt’s original material include “Down the Hall,” based on a true story of a prison hospice program originally reported in The New York Times, and “Livin’ for the Ones,” which takes stock of the loved ones and collaborators Raitt has lost over the years with a mix of honest vulnerability and reverent homage. Raitt also pays tribute to those she lost in the album’s liner notes, including Toots Hibbert, John Prine and Allen Toussaint. “Down the Hall” in particular is a striking reminder that Raitt is a powerful lyricist, as the track takes the perspective of an inmate witnessing the last days of patients in the prison’s hospice ward.

Vocally, Raitt sounds as strong — if not stronger — as she did on landmarks of her catalog like “Angel From Montgomery” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” her naturally soulful voice bringing edge and gravitas to the album’s more serious moments. “Down the Hall,” for example, finds Raitt exploring a somber register as acoustic guitar and organ gently mingle beneath her voice. She can still rock and wail with the best of them, though, as heard on the achingly bluesy “Blame It on Me” and the arena-ready “Livin’ for the Ones.”

Raitt’s guitar chops are as fine as ever too, and on full display across the LP. Opening track “Made Up Mind,” written and first recorded by Canadian country-rock outfit The Bros. Landreth, serves up tasty slide licks atop soulful vocal harmonies and a groovy beat. “Blame It on Me” showcases Raitt’s understated rhythmic prowess, with a few bendy, bluesy flourishes for good measure. The title track allows space for Raitt’s more melodic playing, and “Waitin’ for You to Blow,” another of the LP’s Raitt originals, is a delightful mix of funky jazz chords, rapid-fire legato runs and creatively employed octaves.

© Marina Chavez

Releasing music isn’t all that Raitt’s been up to in 2022. In March, Billboard honored her as part of its annual Women in Music event, presenting her with the Icon Award. In April, Raitt received the Grammys’ Lifetime Achievement Award, the Recording Academy’s highest honor and one that has in the past gone to such artists as Tina Turner and Emmylou Harris. That same month, her 1989 album Nick of Time, which brought Raitt her first true commercial success, was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

Raitt is currently on a lengthy tour in support of Just Like That…, which stops for back-to-back nights at the Ryman on Thursday and Friday. The array of guests joining her on various dates include Marc Cohn and Mavis Staples, as well as NRBQ, whose “Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart” appears in grooving form on Raitt’s new album. Another icon, Lucinda Williams, will share the stage with Raitt in Nashville.

With an extensive catalog — stacked deep with both chart hits and fan favorites — to draw from, and a stellar live band to bring those songs to life, Raitt’s Ryman shows are sure to be live highlights of this year. Half a century into her dynamic career, she’s reached a status most musicians dream of but few ever reach: a living legend, still deep in her prime.

Source: © Copyright Nashville Scene

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‘60 Songs That Explain the ’90s’: Bonnie Raitt Knows Love (and Heartbreak)

on May 18, 2022 No comments
By Rob Harvilla

Bonnie Raitt has been a lot of things—a blues singer, a rock singer, arguably a jazz singer, occasionally a country singer, and eventually a blockbuster pop singer—and on “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” she pronounced herself the purveyor of a timeless, wrenching classic

Grunge. Wu-Tang Clan. Radiohead. “Wonderwall.” The music of the ’90s was as exciting as it was diverse. But what does it say about the era—and why does it still matter? 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s is back for 30 more episodes to try to answer those questions. Join Ringer music writer and ’90s survivor Rob Harvilla as he treks through the soundtrack of his youth, one song (and embarrassing anecdote) at a time. Follow and listen for free exclusively on Spotify. In Episode 63 of 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s—yep, you read that right—we’re breaking down Bonnie Raitt’s timeless “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

Bonnie Raitt was born in Burbank, California, in 1949. She put out her first album, called Bonnie Raitt, in 1971, when she was 21 years old. Then she put out eight more records. Let’s call this Phase 1. But right from the very beginning of Phase 1, boy could Bonnie Raitt sing the bejesus out of the word love.


But you can’t sing the bejesus out of the word love like that if love hasn’t already kicked your ass a whole bunch of times.

That’s from her debut album. It’s an old blues ballad called “Since I Fell for You.” It rules. You know the song “Get Yourself Another Fool” by Sam Cooke? On Sam Cooke’s Night Beat record. Look into that one. Unbelievable. At 21 years old Bonnie’s already starting to operate on that level of poise and gravitas and pathos. Phase 1 of Bonnie Raitt comprises nine records in 15 years. No huge blockbuster chart-topping albums. No breakout singles. Just a steady and healthy and for quite a while a sustainable career bolstered by the fact that one day she’d write a song—it’s the last song actually on her 10th album, which will formally kick off Phase 2—called “The Road’s My Middle Name.”

Bonnie “The Road” Raitt. Put out solid records and tour your ass off. That’s Bonnie’s foundational idea. Another foundational idea: flexibility. She is a blues singer, and a rock singer, and arguably a jazz singer, and occasionally a country singer, and eventually a blockbuster pop singer. But for the first decade and a half, without any outrageous pop success, she enjoys what she’ll later call “a parallel career” to pop in a genre she once described to Stereogum like this: “There’s a format that always plays me, which they’ve called 10 different names over the years.” And then she lists some of those names: roots music. Americana. AOR: Album-oriented rock. She can be folk. She can be folk rock. She can be Southern rock. Honorary Southern rock. Yeesh. Don’t get hung up on any of this. Don’t be like me. Focus on the poise, the gravitas, the pathos, the hard-earned wisdom. Focus on her voice.


This is a song Bonnie wrote called “Nothing Seems to Matter.” Dope “Maggie May” vibes here. It’s on her second album, Give It Up, from 1972, which starts with another song Bonnie wrote called “Give It Up or Let Me Go.” The let me go is crucial. Don’t waste my time is a central theme of Bonnie Raitt’s love songs, notably, but the slightly risque nature of the phrase Give It Up is worth noting as well, I suppose.

If Bonnie Raitt first came to your attention in the late ’80s or early ’90s—which appeared to be the case for millions of people, some of whom were Grammy voters—then it might very well be that your first impression of her was as a 40-year-old veteran rock star on, like, her 11th album. Bonnie was one of this era’s great comeback stories, though she’s joked that calling it a comeback implies that she’d ever been a huge star to begin with. But one of the real joys of doing a Bonnie Raitt deep dive now, of luxuriating in Phase 1, is you get to experience her as a younger, presumably much wilder person, as a 20-something flamethrower in the 1970s trying to drink various old blues legends under the table, and succeeding.


This song’s called “Guilty.” From her third album, Takin’ My Time, in 1973. A melancholy horn section followed Bonnie Raitt everywhere she went for most of the ’70s, just in case she broke into song in the bathroom or something.

I hope she shared the cocaine with the horn section. She probably did. She seems like a super-nice lady. The silver-white streak, in Bonnie’s hair—if you’re like me, you even hear the name Bonnie Raitt and you picture her shrouded in this elegant, roaring campfire of deep red hair, with a silver-white streak in the middle, right? She says that streak started coming in naturally when she was 24, and by 1981 the streak was expanding while the red was fading, so she started dying her hair, but around the streak, to protect it, because as she told Parade magazine once, “I’ve been told it means you’ve been kissed by an angel.” That white streak is a bit on-the-nose, as metaphors go, yes? For a young instant-classic blues singer, for an old soul, for a masterful song interpreter who’d only just hit her mid-20s. It’s like she manifested that streak. Her fourth album, Streetlights, from 1974, that’s the one with her cover of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery.” Holy moley.

Listen, John Prine is John Prine, and I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that anybody can out–John Prine John Prine, but I do think Bonnie Raitt sings these lines with a singularly electrifying sense of exasperation.


So apparently this time out I am disinclined to inundate you with other artists and other songs, for whimsical and discursive purposes, and I am trying to honor my impulse to not indulge my usual whimsical discursive impulses, but it might just be that I got quite entranced by Phase 1 Bonnie Raitt. We might gotta speed this up. Let me briefly direct your attention, though, to her fifth album, from 1975, called Home Plate. First of all, the Home Plate album cover does indeed feature an exuberant Bonnie Raitt sliding into home plate, and I say to you now, with affection, that her sliding form is terrible, like she’s way out in front of home plate, which by the way appears to be shaped incorrectly—the sides are much longer than regulation—and her one leg is way too high, as though she is trying to kick the catcher in the face. Terrible sliding form, great album cover. And perhaps she’s trying to spike the catcher because the catcher is the gentleman to whom she directs the piano-driven heartbroken love song “My First Night Alone Without You.”


Piano-driven heartbroken love songs being somewhat of a Bonnie Raitt specialty, at this point, if you go in for, y’know, foreshadowing. The aching in her head might also be caused by whiskey, or cocaine, or the concussion she received from poorly sliding into home plate.

It’s weird, though, to have zero digressions, isn’t it? Is this too streamlined? Are you familiar with this show? If so, do you feel like you clicked on the wrong thing? You’re right. What about just one other Bonnie Raitt–caliber American icon, with a career running parallel to hers, just for reference, just to see what that double helix looks like? Let’s try this. Another deified singer-songwriter. Another old soul steeped in the blues without getting all pompous and Blueshammer-y about it. Also from California. Born in Pomona. That’s close! Bonnie’s from Burbank. That’s like a 40-minute drive! It probably isn’t. That’s just what Google Maps says. It’s probably like four hours. (My editor chimed in here to say, “Only a madman would do this drive.” There you go. Come to me with all your questions about Los Angeles geography.) Whatever. It doesn’t matter how long the drive is. This is gonna go great.


You recognize that voice? No? Yeah, I don’t blame ya. OK. Look at how well this works, actually. Also born in 1949. He’s less than a month younger than Bonnie Raitt. Also started kicking around in 1971 or so. OK, we’re doing it. This guy. This guy who also appears to be dealing with a “My First Night Alone Without You”–type situation.

The first Tom Waits studio album is called Closing Time, from 1973, he’s sitting at a dimly lit piano looking world-historically pensive and poetic, very similar vibe and lighting scheme to Bonnie Raitt on the cover of her first album, except she’s smiling; if you’re willing to put a bed and a piano in the same room you can imagine that they’re actually sitting in the same room, and Bonnie’s reclined there, somewhat amused, listening to her morose pal Tom pensively plinking at a piano. But let’s not belabor this comparison. This song’s called “Martha.” It’s the single best heartbroken piano ballad of the 1970s. It’s the “I Can’t Make You Love Me” of its era.

To hear the full episode click here, and be sure to follow on Spotify and check back every Wednesday for new episodes on the most important songs of the decade. This excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Source: © Copyright The Ringer

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