Though Bonnie Raitt is best known as an interpreter, putting her indelible stamp on songs like John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery,” John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love,” and Chris Smither’s “Love Me Like a Man,” she’s written some great songs along the way, too. Her writing came back into the spotlight last year with the release of Just Like That, which features (along with a few other originals) two stunning acoustic story-songs: the title track and “Down the Hall.”
The deeply moving “Just Like That” won big at the Grammy awards in February, taking home both Song of the Year and Best American Roots Song. With its character-driven narrative and fingerpicking guitar, “Just Like That” taps into Raitt’s love of the folk ballads of contemporaries like Prine, Bob Dylan, and Paul Brady.
For the album, Raitt wanted to explore writing about other people’s experiences, and in a TV news report she came across a remarkable story about the recipient of a heart transplant meeting the mother of the donor, who’d died in an accident years before. Speaking in the voice of the mother, Raitt delivers this poignant tale as if it were her own.
To play “Just Like That,” tune to dropped D. As you can see in the intro example, Raitt uses alternating-bass picking but doesn’t stick to a strict pattern the whole time. At its core this is a three-chord song—just D, G, and A—but Raitt uses subtle variations throughout, with suspensions, slash chords, and a few riff embellishments, as shown in the tab.
Through much of the song she stays off the first string, using the second string D as the highest note on D5, G/B, and A7sus4. On the G/B chords, note that sometimes the bassist plays the G root rather than the B Raitt is using. If you play the song solo, you might use a root-based voicing for G (with the bass note on string 6, fret 5) to create a similar harmony.
The key to playing this song is to keep the guitar sparse and supportive, and let the powerful story sink in.
Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to post notation or tablature for this musical work. If you have a digital or physical copy of the May/June 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 52.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.