Roadhouse album review: Bonnie Raitt is back, and “Just Like That…” stronger than ever

Bonnie Raitt — “Just Like That …” — Redwing Records

I’ve been a fan of Bonnie Raitt since I heard her first album, “Bonnie Raitt,” in 1971, a wonderful pastiche of blues, folk, rock and Raitt’s own musical persona, plus a bunch of her talented friends. (Her eclectic and talented supporting cast, for you blues fans, included A.C. Reed on sax and Junior Wells on harp on several songs.)

But just like that, just a tick over a half-century later, Raitt is still making magical music virtually undimmed by time with her 21st album, “Just Like That …” her first in six years.

This one is also eclectic, drawing strength from Raitt’s four original songs among the ten thoughtfully written and played compositions on this beautifully crafted, self-produced album. If anything, her vocals are stronger than ever, filled with passion and compassion for the subject at hand, whether it’s sweet love or sorrowful loss.

The haunting title track is one of those originals, the story of a woman comforted by the man who received her son’s transplanted heart. It’s a powerful acoustic gem.

The album is filled with songs of love, longing and loss, but it’s never trite or maudlin, thanks to skillful songwriting, and Raitt’s knowledge as a vocalist, finding hope and optimism in the humanity of her outlook. She’s also pulled together a group of her long-time bandmates, who contribute a spare but pulsive backdrop for every mood.

I don’t mean to make this sound like a dark and depressing album. Quite contrary. Raitt has taken thoughtful topics — losses to Covid, for example — and created joyful remembrances. In the hard-rocking “Livin’ for the Ones,” she sings: “I’m livin’ for the ones who didn’t make it, cut down through no fault of their own….” amid the punchy rhythms.

There are some more traditional touches of heartache and heartbreak in tracks like “”Here Comes Love,” “Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart, “the album opener “Made Up Mind,” and “Something’s Got Ahold of My Heart.”

Then there’s one of my favorites, the gorgeously torchy “Blame It on Me,” (“Truth is love’s first casualty….”) with what sounds like her signature slide work and one long, pure note she holds near the end that should make your heart ache with pain and pleasure.

This is an outstanding album, 50 years out, full of great songs, music and Raitt’s still compelling vocals.

Enjoy it soon and often.

Here’s a live performance of “Made Up Mind” on the Kelly Clarkson TV show:

Here’s an excellent interview. It’s worth watching.

Tracklist

  1. Made Up Mind
  2. Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart
  3. Livin’ for the Ones
  4. Just Like That
  5. When We Say Goodnight
  6. Waitin’ For You to Blow
  7. Blame it On Me
  8. Love So Strong
  9. Here Comes Love
  10. Down The Hall

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