If the young feel hard and forget fast, adults feel hard and remember long. To her credit, Bonnie Raitt has never courted the youth market. Avoiding disco strings and guest raps, the slide-guitar legend has amassed a body of work immersed in the blues and fully committed to the Well-Written Song; both her chosen repertoire and the material she’s penned herself adduce a belief in adulthood as a well-earned grace. Her sunny, wide-open voice and the sparkling correctness of her playing have kept bathos at bay ever since she invested Eric Kaz’s “Love Has No Pride,” one of her chestnuts, with an aw-shucks sensual abandonment: She’s in love, yet damn straight she keeps her pride.
Thirty-three years after Nick of Time, which yielded perhaps the most career-changing Grammy coronation in history, and six years since her last studio album, Dig in Deep, Raitt returns with Just Like That…, a self-produced effort boasting most of her strengths: a fidelity to the material that borders on the idolatrous, a penchant for leading mostly male pros through unfamiliar paces, and the exquisite precision of her guitar. As for weaknesses—well, she could have ventured further afield with the covers, as she did with Dig in Deep’s sly take on INXS’ “Need You Tonight.” Still, she sounds good, she plays better, and her band, co-led by longtime foil George Marinelli, simmers. A fine career summation should she choose to stop, Just Like That… is robust professional rock, a demonstration of Raitt’s vitality, like, say, Catherine Deneuve’s recent film work.
Her 18th album cedes a few of the solos she and Marinelli might have played to Glenn Patscha, a first-rate organist whose fills have the lightness of Charles Hodges. On her own “Waitin’ for You to Blow,” she lays down the guitar so Kenny Greenberg and Patscha can exchange solos over Ricky Fataar’s hi-hats. “Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart” gets a lift from Patscha’s Fender Rhodes colors, given a mixing boost by Raitt and Ryan Freeland (the funereal “Blame It on Me” is the only lapse into heavy-handedness). A chugging little thing familiar to fans of her 1973 cover of Martha and the Vandellas’ “You’ve Been in Love Too Long,” her band’s take on the Bros. Landreth’s “Made Up Mind” greases up a melody “like a rainstorm tin-roof symphony.” But they falter with a static reggae-lite version of Toots and the Maytals’ “Love So Strong”; it has a skank but not much else.