Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Johnny Rawls -- "Soul Survivor"

Johnny Rawls has a new cd out, which is cause for celebration! "Soul Survivor" is the follow up to 2011's "Memphis Still Got Soul" which received three Blues Music Awards nominations--Soul Blues Male Artist, Soul Blues Album, as well as Song of The Year for the title track. In my review, I called "Memphis Still Got Soul" Rawls' best album so far, and let me say it right up front, "Soul Survivor" is even stronger. Again the focus is on soul blues, and the band is terrific. On nine of the songs the band includes Richie Puga (drums, congas) Dan Ferguson (keyboards) Johnny McGhee (guitar) and Bob Trenchard (bass) and Jessica and Jillian Ivey (background vocals).  They are often joined by a horn section of Andy Roman (sax) Mike Middleton (trumpet) and Robert Claiborne (trombone). But as is always true with a Rawls record, the vocals and lyrics lead the way. Nine of the ten songs were recorded at Tornillo, Texas; the other one, "Yes," was recorded in Helena Montana with Dan Nichols (drums) Michael Kakuk (dobro, harmonica) Doug Skoogs and John Moore (keyboards). Nine of the ten songs are originals, mostly written by Rawls and Bob Trenchard, with some contributions from other band members, as well as Catfood Records artist Sandy Carroll, who co-wrote one song. The one non-original here is a song written by Rawls' mentor, the late great soul music legend O. V. Wright, "Eight Men, Four Women." Rawls does one O. V. Wright song on each album.

This time out my favorite song changes every day. It is either "Soul Survivor," which features Rawls smooth vocal name-checking O. V. Wright and Little Johnny Taylor, or "Yes," which has a sweet acoustic guitar intro, (maybe by Rawls himself?) a cool harmonica solo, and lyrics which recall Otis Redding over a solid beat.

Johnny Rawls started out as while in his early 20s as the band director for O. V. Wright, and after O. V. died in 1979, Rawls kept the band together and toured with Little Johnny Taylor and others. By 1985 Rawls was touring and recording as a solo artist. I tell you these things to say that Johnny knows what he is doing, and he has been doing it very well for a very long time. Every new cd is a cause for celebration!

You can buy this cd at http://www.johnnyrawlsblues.com

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