This is a sheer joy from start to finish. Like a fine, fine wine, Bonnie Raitt only improves with age. So much to admire on this album, from Bonnie’s impeccable taste in covers, her own writing, that glorious gossamer touch on the frets, the ringing slide guitar, and above all else, that amazing soulful voice. It’s an eclectic mix of styles and sources, blues, and ballads, roots and rockers, reggae and funk, but everywhere, the album just exudes class.
Her trademark slide guitar, which has made her the envy of players everywhere, remains a thing of joy, effortlessly on display throughout. When Bonnie chooses to rock, everyone knows it. Bonnie has championed many writers in the past, whose work may have been passed by. The Brothers Landreth is a case in point on this offering. Bonnie stays close to the Canadian band’s original on the soul-infused ‘Made up Mind’, and yet she still stamps her own identity on it with a beautiful velvet delivery.
‘Love So Strong’ was intended as a duet with Toots Hibbert, but sadly following his death, it’s played here as a heartfelt tribute. ‘Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart’ by NRBQ’s Al Alderson is another ready-made standard for the seemingly ageless singer. This time around, Bonnie has written, or co-written 4 of the 10 tracks herself, more than on any other album.
‘Livin’ For the Ones’ is co-written with her long-time guitarist George Marinelli, for the friends and family she has lost. This is a song that will connect, and resonate with so many people. Both an upbeat celebration of life, and a love song to those lost to Covid, and beyond. A song that is universal in its scope, but so personal in its interpretation for each listener. And it rocks! ‘Down the Hall’ is a true story set in the hospice of a prison, with a prisoner caring for his dying fellow inmates with compassion and truth, a task that ultimately frees the narrator from his own bars.
The title track concerns the impact of a heart transplant on two families, one the donor’s mother, and one the recipient. It’s a heart-wrenching story of loss and sacrifice, acceptance, and common humanity:
Just like that, your life can change…
No knife can carve away the stain, no drink can drown regret
They say Jesus brings you peace and grace, but he ain’t found me yet
One can almost hear Bonnie’s great friend, John Prine singing that last line. But there’s resolution and closure too
While I spent so long in darkness, I never thought the night would end
But somehow grace has found me, and I had to let him in.
Bonnie has spoken of the style of narrative in these songs:
“I’ve always loved the early guitar songs of Dylan, Jackson Browne, Paul Brady, and especially John Prine” she says. “With songs like ‘Angel from Montgomery’ and ‘Donald and Lydia’ John was able to just climb inside and sing these people’s deepest lives. With his passing last year, finishing these songs has meant even more.”
Bonnie hasn’t written that much over her career, which is a shame, because it is such a gift to be able to write such succinct and eloquent distillations of the human experience.
Following two years of isolation and loss of loved ones from the pandemic, and mired as the world is, at the minute in conflict and hate, Bonnie’s songs speak to the grace and humanity that the heart can aspire to. ‘Just Like That’ is an album for these times, and all time.