Bonnie Raitt may be best known for slide, but she’s an expert fingerpicker, too
and her Americana-indebted style will improve your acoustic playing

on September 6, 2023 No comments
By Stuart Ryan ( Guitar Techniques )

In this video and tab lesson, we unpack the acoustic fingerstyle approach of one of America’s great songwriters, and give you ideas for how to embellish chords and use inversions.

A legend in the worlds of roots, blues, folk and Americana, US artist Bonnie Raitt was rewarded for her songwriting with the 2023 Grammy for Best Song for her track Just Like That (beating Harry Styles, Adele and Beyoncé). 

Certain factions of the British press subsequently embarrassed themselves by asking who this ‘unknown blues singer’ was – as it happens, Raitt has actually won 13 Grammys over her 50-year career. Commercial acclaim has not evaded her either, and she was already well known for her powerful reading of I Can’t Make You Love Me, Nick of Time and many more. 

Raitt was born in Burbank, California in 1949 and grew up in a musical family. She took up guitar aged eight and taught herself to play the instrument, inspired by the Folk Revival artists of the late 1950s. After a few years studying at Harvard University, she moved to Philadelphia where she began to pursue music seriously.

It didn’t take long for Raitt’s considerable talents to be discovered, and by 1970 she was performing with blues legend Mississippi Fred McDowell. The following year she was signed by Warner Bros records who released her eponymous debut in 1971. While acclaim followed quickly, sales were harder to come by and for much of the 1970s commercial success eluded her.


However, when she met Lowell George in the late 1970s she quickly became influenced by the Little Feat legend’s slide playing and adopted the use of a guitar slide herself. 

A heavier, R&B sound ensued and some commercial success finally arrived with the release of 1977’s Sweet Forgiveness.  However, it wouldn’t be until her 10th album, 1989’s Nick Of Time that she saw real commercial success and a USA chart-topping album. 

Raitt is most commonly associated with her stunning slide playing but she is really a multi-faceted guitarist with a mastery of rootsy, folksy fingerpicking. This month’s study takes a look at how she uses drop D tuning to create textural parts with alternate picking on the bassnotes and the type of rich open chords that are common to that other American legend, Bruce Springsteen.


When it comes to acoustic playing Raitt can go from aggressive, Skip James influenced blues to more gentle self-accompaniment, as is the case with our piece below.

As with many guitarists from the Folk Revival of the 1950s and 1960s she performs with the classic folk style – this means fingerpicks and a thumbpick, the thumb playing alternating basslines over sixth and fourth strings, and the first, second and third fingers taking care of third, second and first strings respectively.

The acoustic guitar is usually used as an accompaniment to her unmatched vocals so expect rolling, arpeggiated picking patterns along with those rich-sounding chord voicings mentioned earlier.

Get the tone

Amp settings: Gain 3, Bass 7, Middle 6, Treble 7, Reverb 2

Bonnie has been using a Guild F-50 jumbo since 1975, but as our picture shows she can stray to smaller-bodied instruments, too. Any acoustic will work well for this style, though a larger guitar will give more volume and projection. Finger and thumbpicks provide more attack but that’s a whole other discipline. I used an Alvarez Masterworks acoustic for the recording.


Playing notes


[Bars 1-16] Don’t forget to tune your sixth string down to D before starting. At the heart of this approach is the alternating bassline between the sixth and fourth strings, and if this is new try cycling bar 1 for a while so the thumb can get used to the pattern.

Then acquaint yourself with the chord shapes as most of the embellishments are built around these. Don’t rush though, as it will affect your tempo and make you power through the beat too quickly.

[Bars 17-32] Adding melodic ideas up on the first and second strings is a common technique in roots, Americana and folk playing. It works particularly well in drop D tuning, as you contrast the low-end weight of the alternating bassline with melodic ideas on the treble strings.

Also check out how artists like Raitt and Bruce Springsteen use inversions of simple open chord shapes to bring more movement and interest to a progression.

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Source: © Copyright Guitar World – Guitar Techniques

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Fine at 50: Bonnie Raitt’s “Takin’ My Time”

on August 19, 2023 No comments
By Joe Vincenza

There are so many people in the music business who never ever get the attention they deserve (and too many who get a lot more attention than they should, but that is another story). Bonnie Raitt is at the top of the list of those who should be more highly regarded than they are. Bonnie has won 13 Grammies, and been nominated 30 times, so it’s not like she’s gone completely ignored. Still, if you ask people to name one of her songs most would be hard pressed to come up with a title, or they would default to one of her most radio friendly successes, her cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway” (which is indeed awesome to be sure). Or, if they have some savvy on her career “Angel from Montgomery” might be their very appropriate response. Or they might even mention the song that won her a Grammy in 2023 — “Just Like That,” which she wrote as well as performed.


But before all of this, 50 years ago, Bonnie released her third studio album “Takin’ My Time” in the fall of 1973. The 10-song effort was well received by fans and critics, reaching No. 87 on the Billboard Top LP chart that year. As gifted a songwriter as Bonnie is, the choice of material for “Takin’ My Time” was all covers. It turned out to be quite an eclectic mix of songs, influences and styles, ranging from Calypso, to blues, to ballads, to a jaunty version of “Let Me In” a tune recorded in 1961 by The Sensations.

All the songs work, but by the time you get to track 10, you’re not really sure where you’ve been, or where Bonnie was going with all this. Being eclectic is double edged — it shows a wealth of influences, but can leave the listener a bit windblown some 40 minutes later. But, don’t worry about that — this record lasts! If there were one thing that I would change, it’s that we don’t get to hear nearly enough of Bonnie playing guitar, she’s there, but rarely do these particular songs lend the space needed for her to demonstrate her chops. It was a choice she made, so be it. Bonnie has always insisted on complete create control over her work, another reason she garners so much admiration and respect from her fellow musicians.

See, that’s the thing about Bonnie — being honest and true in what you do, it lasts. She could put this record out now (or redo the songs with more contemporary structure) and it would sound perfectly in place.

The first track “You’ve Been in Love Too Long” is an up-tempo funky start to the set, and it’s a genre Bonnie handles just fine. That’s followed by the sweet ballad “I Gave My Love a Candle,” which she presents with equal expertise (Bonnie knows ballads!). The aforementioned “Let Me In” comes next, and it’s sprinkled with Creole seasoning giving it a fun Nola flavor. The rest of the tracks are all equally fine, mixing in some blues, some mid-tempo pop, and even a calypso-flavored song. Mose Allison, Randy Newman, Jackson Browne all get writing credits on these songs, so you know the material is good.


Speaking of Jackson Browne, he has done many many benefit concerts for schools throughout the years. I happened to attend one in 1995, benefiting a special needs school in Arizona. The location for the concert was in the middle of the desert in a natural amphitheater. The lineup featured Jackson of course, Shawn Colvin, and Bonnie Raitt, among many. It was so great to see her live, she was just as real and honest as her music, and I’m happy to have been there (even though it was Arizona, and the desert, and summertime).

There really aren’t any bad Bonnie Raitt records. If you’re around for 50 years, some of your work is bound to be better, some not so much. “Takin’ My Time” definitely stands the test of time, and it’s one of the better, even half a century later.

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Source: © Copyright WUWF 88.1

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Something to Gush About

on July 4, 2023 No comments
Mary Lee Pappas
Bonnie Raitt at Murat Theatre at Old National Centre, Indianapolis, IN – July 1, 2023 © James “Hutch” Hutchinson
Bonnie with Maia Sharp at Murat Theatre at Old National Centre, Indianapolis, IN – July 1, 2023

Maia Sharp, a musician who’s written songs for Bonnie Raitt, Cher, Edwin McCain, Art Garfunkel, Keb’Mo’ and more, opened the show as people were still finding their seats.

Thankfully, some talkers got emphatically shushed into silence, so all could, undisturbed, take in this amazing singer/songwriter armed with only her guitar.

“Junkyard Dog” and the wry “Nice Girl,” with the key lyric derived from her ex saying, “You’ll make a nice girl miserable someday,” had the crowd smiling and immersed in her love-lost storytelling. “Old Dreams” and other songs from her Reckless Thoughts album, which will be released in August, were also performed.

If you don’t know Sharp, you may’ve heard her song “Nothing But the Radio” in rotation on 92.3 WTTS. They presented the evening’s show as part of their Rock to Read Concert Series, which raises funds for children’s literacy programs through the Indianapolis Public Library. Learn more at

Bonnie Raitt is the GOAT. The blues-rock star doesn’t need a review or any clever compliments. Her praises have been sung for decades with her voice, guitar skills, and songwriting unwaveringly prodigious.

She was met with a standing ovation when she walked onto the stage. This was before she could even grab her guitar – her first of many. With a cool poise and ease in delivery, she started the show with “Made Up Mind” from her latest album from 2022, Just Like That… followed by the funky “Used to Rule the World.”

An expansive backdrop of a clouded sky dusted with sunset pinks set the mood while the Ukrainian flag rested on the drum riser. Raitt, an elegant activist, said, “We’re traveling with the Ukrainian flag,” as a reminder of the country’s plight.

On the last night of the tour before a two-month hiatus, Raitt said, “It’s like the last night of summer camp, so anything could happen.” This show was rescheduled from a May 20 postponement due to a “medical situation that required surgery to address.” her social media had relayed. Whatever the matter, she appeared unsurprisingly bionic and unconquerable. Later in the show, she humored, “I’ll be happy to be home and do my laundry.” But her uniform tour blouses (who makes them?) probably require dry cleaning. For this night, she donned a dark blue satin, three-quarter sleeve button-down shirt with sparkly pin-stripes and raspberry-fushia turned-back cocktail cuffs – a shirt made for guitar playing.

Truly a badass, her voice was mesmerizingly perfect in person. She pulled from her heart to relay every lyric in her timeless songs. Interacting with the audience, she had a quip for any banter—a pro. The sound quality was exceptional, and the depth of synergy among the band was brilliant, pushing the escapist experience of witnessing this legend live. The band is la crème de la crème: Hutch Hutchinson, her bassist of 30 years; Ricky Fataar of The Rutles fame and a Beach Boy for a stint in the early 70s on drums; the soulful Glenn Patscha on keys: and the famed Duke Levine on guitar. Tight and meticulous.

“No Business” from the “Luck of the Draw” 1991 album was up next, giving fans the treat of witnessing her slide guitar mastery. She then praised her team, saying, “I love my band, and I love this crew…thank you for a great tour,” before launching into “Blame It On Me” off the new album. Before Patscha could lay out the soulful, moody intro on the Hammond, Raitt said, “I’ve got to get pissed off to sing this.” Naturally, it was one of her many love and heartache songs making attendees teary-eyed. “Nick of Time” from her 1989 breakthrough album of the same title roused this retiree-aged crowd enough to clap along and cry a little more. Guitar number four came out for the melancholy “Just like that,” then a lively “Something to Talk About.” Accolades to the uninhibited: a woman with a close-up orchestra seat on the right side who got up and danced, and the guy to the far left about seven rows back who grooved in the aisle for the whole show.

It was great to hear hits like “Love Letter,” “Love Sneakin’ Up on You,” and “Have a Heart” that had people singing along. An intangible, graceful performance of John Prine’s “Angel of Montgomery” with Raitt welcoming “My sister, Maia Sharp,” to the stage to accompany her was an entrancing highlight. Raitt exclaimed, “Thank you for this song,” among her many praises of Prine, and added of Sharp, “One of the finest we’ve got.”

The only peculiar aspect of the evening was the audience. With iconic songs ingrained into Americana like “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” how was the crowd not more diverse? Considering her collaborations, and her style, it made no sense. Does her music reach younger audiences? Was my 48-year-old Raitt devotee friend the youngest person in the crowd? OK, staff circling the aisles with their green lights, ensuring no one was sneaking pics or recording, was a bit annoying, but whatever.

Among her three-song encore was a heart-wrenching rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” that, no matter how many times it’s been covered or by whichever greats, it’s Raitt’s emotive embodiment of the lyrics, the story of unrequited love that feels like she’s as the Roberta Flack song goes, “Killing me softly.” Another unforgettable moment in a most remarkable show. Every aspect of this concert would leave anyone awestruck. Seeing Raitt live should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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