Johnny Rawls,
Memphis Still Got Soul
(Catfood, 2011)

When Johnny Rawls' opening song, "Memphis Still Got Soul," blasts through your speakers, if you're like me, you'll smile, sink into a pleasant mood and think, "We're in good hands here." The band is crisp and sharp, with a great horn section and a fine Hammond B-3 and a rhythm section that punches like Mohammad Ali. Rawls has a perfect soul voice; you hear him, you believe him.

The magic continues with Rawls' cover of O.V. Wright's "Blind, Crippled & Crazy," a song Rawls came to love when he was serving as Wright's musical director. After that, however, the magic fades. Rawls' singing and guitar playing are still fine and the band still cooks, but the writing suffers; we move into the land of man wants woman. Rawls the soulman is satisfied to be Rawls the seducer or Rawls the dumped lover, and the songs he creates just aren't all that distinctive. Good to dance to, good to serve as background at a party, but nothing that's going to cause you to inhale and say, "That's it, that's what I needed to hear."

It's a shame because this guy is good. With better material, he would have had a killer CD.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

9 April 2011

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