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Bonnie Raitt: Just Like That
(Redwing Records, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 6/8/2022)
Pop music careers in the rock era have often been rather ephemeral. A couple of hits, and then you’re largely forgotten, or reduced to playing oldies at county fairs. But there are a number of performers who have defied time and continue to do creative work through decades on the music scene. On Mixed Bag, we have sometimes featured sets of these veteran performers, who not only carry on, but flourish artistically. This week we have another excellent example: Bonnie Raitt, who has just released her 21st album not long after the 50th anniversary of her first. The new release is called Just Like That.
Bonnie Raitt came from a musical family with her father John Raitt a notable Broadway singer and actor, her mother pianist and singer Marge Goddard. They gave Bonnie her first guitar at age eight. In late 1960s, at Harvard and Radcliffe, she became involved with the folk music scene, and had the chance to open for blues veterans like Sippie Wallace, Mississippi Fred McDowell and John Lee Hooker. She began to attract attention and by 1971 was signed to Warner Brothers and released her eponymous debut album that year. Since then, she has won 12 Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, all the while keeping up a steady stream of recordings spotlighting her bluesy but true vocals, and has consistently attracted a band of first rate musicians to back her up.
Her new album is no exception. It’s a blend of five original tunes with seven mostly-new songs by others. Her band on the album includes some of her long-time colleagues, Ricky Fataar on drums, James “Hutch” Hutchinson on bass, and on keyboards, Glenn Patcha who has worked with Raitt previously, and was part of the group Ollabelle. Patcha replaced Mike Finnegan who succumbed to COVID and is given several solos on the album. In the liner notes, Ms. Raitt notes the passing of Finnegan and lists quite a few of the musicians she has known and worked with who died of COVID.
Ms Raitt, at age 72, is in excellent form vocally, and gets opportunities to put in some nice slide guitar work. The lyrical material on the album mostly deals with various relationships, but there are a couple of interesting musical narratives, including one inspired by an article on a prison hospice.
Leading off is a track that is kind of classic Bonnie Raitt. Made Up Mind is a bluesy rock tune that about a relationship gone awry from stubbornness. <<>>
Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart is a song from 1992 written by Al Anderson from the band NRBQ. It’s another love song, with a more positive result, with an easy-going musical setting and Ms. Raitt’s slinky vocal just perfect. <<>>
The first of the original songs, or at least lyrics penned by Ms. Raitt, is Livin’ for the Ones. Co-written by another of Ms. Raitt’s regular musical associates, George Marinelli, it’s an interesting dichotomy with the lyrics noting the loss of family and friends, presumably from the pandemic, while the musical backing rocks out. <<>>
The title track Just Like That is an interesting acoustic story song about how incidents can change ones life forever. In this case, it’s a woman who son died young, who is visited by a stranger who apparently received a heart transplant from the deceased son. <<>>
Another of the Raitt originals is called Waitin’ for You to Blow a funky tune apparently about a rivalry. <<>>
One of the highlights of the album for me is a tune called Blame It On Me newly written by John Capek and Andrew Matheson. It’s a slow Gospel influenced blues in waltz time on which Ms. Raitt’s vocal really shines. <<>> She also gets some slide guitar work. <<>>
Here Comes Love Again was apparently recorded earlier since it features the late Mike Finnegan on keyboards. It has a great New Orleans-influenced groove and a guest appearance by New Orleans vocalist and pianist Jon Cleary. <<>>
The album ends with Down the Hall, the song Ms. Raitt wrote about a prison hospice, where inmates die, often alone. It’s done in an acoustic setting and is another of the album’s highlights. <<>>
Bonnie Raitt’s new twenty-first album called Just Like That her first in about six years, is a thoroughly worthwhile recording that shows that more than 50 years after her debut release, Ms Raitt is in top form, both vocally and in songwriting. She has surrounded herself with a winning team of supporting musicians who are sensitive and thoroughly tasteful, but can rock out when the occasion calls for it. The material on the album is a fairly eclectic mix from the folky to bluesy to a couple of rockers. Ms. Raitt is not a prolific prolific writer, but the songs she does pen are first-rate, and the selection of cover material is a nicely compatible.
Our grade for sound quality is close to an “A.” The recording emphasizes the honest sound of the music, and Ms. Raitt’s vocal is nicely captured with minimal effects.
I think it’s safe say that Bonnie Raitt is one performer who is musically timeless. While she covers much of the same musical territory has she has for 50 years, she does it with a generous helping of class, and I would say that the new release Just Like That is one of her best.
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