Thursday, July 26, 2012

Soul Survivor reviewed by Steve Jones

Soul Survivor 
Johnny Rawls
Catfood Records
10 tracks

At 61 Jonny Rawls continues to tour heavily and push out quality albums every couple of years. Spawned from the O.V.Right and Little Johnny Taylor line of soul music, Johnny Rawls has a captivatingly smooth and easy approach to his tunes. At times and in a good way it’s almost like a sedative that just woos you into a captivating trance, where you just listen and feel good from a subconscious level. He learned well as bandleader to some of soul’s great men, and his solo work is also pretty damn good. He got 3 BMA nominations for his last CD and while the competition to win is tough to win he is certainly in the mix!

We have nine original cuts here, written by Rawls, Bob Trenchard (his bass player) and other band members along with one cover of his original mentor’s works, O.V. Wright; “Eight Men, Four Women” isa very soulful ballad where O.V. did and now Rawls bemoans the guilty plea he has to submit to his jury of love. It’s a nice tribute and Rawls is convincing. Jessica and Jillian Ivey are great on back-up vocals.

I would have to say my favorite original cuts are the first one and last two. On the first, Rawls gives us the title cut and describes soulfully how he is a “Soul Survivor” in the biz. The instrumental cut “J.R.’s Groove” features Rawls on bass and Johnny McGhee on guitar. Andy Roman on sax, Mike Middleton on trumpet and Robert Claiborne on trombone also stand out as does Dan Ferguson on keys. Richy Puga on congas and drums is also featured. It is a cool and driving groove. Lastly, “Yes” gives us Rawls on bass and guitar here. It’s more of a rough and tumble slow soulful bluesy tune with an acoustic opening and a strident vocal by Rawls- really nice stuff.

The rest of the CD is also well done, a Soul Survivor working his craft.  I enjoyed this CD a lot as will any soul music fan looking for traditional stuff done professionally and tastefully. Rawls is a steady fixture on today’s scene and it’s nice that he continues to produce really good new stuff for us to enjoy.

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