Memphis Still Got Soul
[Catfood Records (2011)]
The fact that Johnny Rawls’ last three albums have garnered critical acclaim, including five Blues Music Awards nominations—his Ace of Spades won for Soul Blues Album of the Year in 2010—has elevated the man’s status as a purveyor of genuine Southern Soul. His new album leads off with the title track, a song that references Elvis, Stax, Beale Street, and B.B. King. The mood is set right away and the horn section contributes to the Memphis mood even though the album was actually recorded in Tornillo, Texas and Helena, Montana. The second track is a cover of “Blind, Crippled and Crazy,” which was O. V. Wright’s lead-off song in concert when Rawls was his bandleader. The other tracks are all songs that Rawls co-wrote with either drummer Dan Nichols or bassist Bob Trenchard, the latter also having co-produced the album with Rawls. An outside producer might have served as a better A&R man. Although the material is generally good, a few of the songs have lyrics that are rather trite. Sometimes singers need to be reminded that there are plenty of excellent songs just waiting to be rediscovered and given the kind of stylish treatment that an artist of Rawls’ talent could give them.
—Paul E. Comeau (Comeauville, NS, Canada)