Blues Underground Network
Johnny Rawls "Memphis Still Got Soul"
I will certainly be the first to admit that Soul is not my favorite genre of music to listen to, but that doesn't mean that I haven't run across the odd Soul singer whom has caught my ear, with Johnny Rawls being the most recent. In fact, Johnny Rawls has been catching the attention of a lot of people over his illustrious career, which now spans 5 decades.
Born and raised in Mississippi, his love of music started at a early age after "hearing his grandfather play the blues guitar one Christmas morning". His professional career also started early, as he was still in high school when he began performing with numerous stars such as "ZZ Hill, Little Johnny Taylor, Joe Tex and the Sweet Inspirations", to name a few. Throughout his career he has really done it all, from producing and songwriting to even owning a record company, and many many other musically related things in between.
The last decade has been a rewarding one for Johnny Rawls, garnering him many nominations, awards, and recognition from organizations such as the Blues Foundation, Living Blues Magazine, West Coast Blues Hall of Fame, and the W.C. Handy Awards. He also now shares a Blues Trail Marker with Legends Tyrone Davis and Little Milton, which is "at the original site of the Hi Hat Club in Hattiesburg, Mississippi ".
Johnny Rawls newest Album, "Memphis Still Got Soul", follows his acclaimed 2009 release "Ace of Spades" which not only charted at #4 but also "remained in the top 20 for three months". "Ace of Spades" was responsible for Rawls' winning a Best Soul Blues Album of the Year Award and a nomination for "Best Male Soul Blues Artist of the Year by the Blues Foundation". With the release of "Memphis Still Got Soul", similar accolades, may once again, not be to far off.
"Memphis Still Got Soul" consists of 11 tracks, of which Johnny Rawls is credited for co-writing 9 on them. The other co-writers with Johnny Rawls on "Memphis Still Got Soul" were Bob Trenchard (3 Tracks) and Dan Nichols (5 Tracks). Bob Trenchard is also credited for solely writing Track 8 "Flying Blind" and co-writing Track 9 "Don't Act So Innocent" with Dan Ferguson. Trenchard, Nichols, and Ferguson, are also musicians on "Memphis Still Got Soul", playing Bass, Drums/Percussion, and Keyboards. Dan Ferguson was also responsible for Arranging. The Cover that was chosen for "Memphis Still Got Soul" was "Blind, Crippled and Crazy", written by Darryl Carter, Charles Edward Sr Hodges, and Deadric Malone and previously made popular via The Derek Trucks Band on their hugely successful album, Songlines. "Blind, Crippled and Crazy" was added to "Memphis Still Got Soul", to honor O.V. Wright, whom was the first to make that song a hit. "Johnny Rawls was O.V. Wright's band leader the last several years of Wright’s life. In fact, that was the song Johnny & the band played as O.V. Wright came onstage each night for his shows. " Also to honor O.V. Wright, Johnny Rawls kept the band together for several years after Wright's passing.
Every album has it own uniqueness to it in the way it was recorded, the history behind the songs, or even the Cover Art. With "Memphis Still Got Soul", the uniqueness comes from the way it was recorded. You see this album was recorded in two different locations, (Sun Ranch Studio's, Tornillo, Texas and Soul Tree Recording, Helena, Montana) which you might say is not out of the ordinary, but for this album, each location had completely different musicians and background vocalists accompanying Johnny Rawls. I have not come across that situation before and it is a testament to not only Rawls', but also to the immense amount of talent that he had at his disposal. Also unique is the fact that except for the first two tracks, all other tracks switch between one recording studio and the other and since basically the same instruments were used at each studio, the end result is virtually seamless. The one difference that you may notice though, is that Johnny Rawls takes over the Guitar playing when recording was done at Soul Tree Recording.
When it came to the music on "Memphis Still Got Soul", there really wasn't anything fancy here, just Johnny Rawls doing what he has always done best, and that is pouring out his heart and soul for his fans, with a consistency that has garnered him so much success over the years. All the songs were sung about as good as any Soul singer could belt them out, and the musical and vocal accompaniment was, second to none. All in all, a job very well done via all contributors, especially Johnny Rawls whom continues to show us that he really does got Soul, in more ways then one.
For fans of Soul music, "Memphis Still Got Soul" will not disappoint you, for Johnny Rawls music in not capable of that.
Review by John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network)
1. Memphis Still Got Soul 4:09
2. Blind, Crippled and Crazy 2:52
3. Give You What You Need 4:00
4. Take You For A Ride 4:18
5. Stop The Rain 4:03
6. Burning Bridges 3:26
7. My Guitar 3:21
8. Flying Blind 3:10
9. Blues Woman 3:38
10. Don't Act So Innocent 3:46
11. Love Stuff 4:02
Listen To Samples Here...