Memphis Still Got Soul
Johnny Rawls, a native of Mississippi, inspired by his grandfather's blues guitar, began playing professionally in high school. As a teen, he backed singers like Joe Tex, Little Johnny Taylor, Willie Hitower, the Sweet Inspirations, and Z.Z. Hill. Eventually he took over as the band leader of one of his idols, O.V. Wright. Despite Wright's death, the O.V. Wright Band stayed alive for over a decade with Rawls as the director. After 1985, he began touring as a solo artist making his first recording as a solo artist on the Rainbow label. Rawls is no stranger to the music industry, having done it all as a producer, songwriter, horn arranger, playing rhythm, lead, and bass guitar, as well as singing lead and background vocals. Johnny started his own record company, Deep South Soul, in 2002 and has released his CDs Lucky Man, Live in Montana, and The Best of Johnny Rawls. He is known for his national and international tours playing well over 200 shows a year.
His latest CD Memphis Still Got Soul is an absolute rhythm and blues showcase. It accentuates "Soul" with a capital S from the delta to the streets of Chicago! He is backed by a magnificent band consisting of 16 different artists. Johnny is pictured on the CD cover in a white suit on Beale Street really tailor-made to the quality of music found inside.
The entire CD is composed with probably the best horn arrangements that I have heard on any studio album. After listening to this CD, I would have to consider Rawls the King of Rhythm and Blues. Memphis Still Got Soul opens with the Bob Trenchard/Johnny Rawls title track "Memphis Still Got Soul" which says it all about the legends that made Memphis famous. "Blind, Crippled, and Crazy" a tune by Darryl Carter, Charles Hodges, Deadric Malone is a sensational tribute to the 1968 recording done by Johnny's idol O.V. Wright. "Give You What You Need" and "Take You For a Ride" will have you on your feet clapping and dancing to the music. "Stop The Rain," another Rawls/Nichols tune, a deep soul ballad is based on a true life experience. "Burning Bridges" the funky hard driving blues number and "My Guitar" feature superior guitar solos by Rawls and Johnny McGhee. "Flying Blind," a Bob Trenchard tune, really captures the essence of this rhythm and soul masterpiece. The CD returns back to another funky blues style with the Rawls/Nichols tune "Blues Woman." Rawls concludes with the words of advice "Don't Act So Innocent" and completes his latest sweet soul collection with the soul strut number "Love Stuff."
If you haven't heard Johnny Rawls, you owe it to yourself to hear Memphis Still Got Soul produced by Johnny Rawls and Bob Trenchard. It is truly another great achievement by a master of soul music.
Reviewed by Rick Davis