Johnny Rawls review…October 11, 2013…

JOHNNY RAWLS

REMEMBERING O. V.

CATFOOD RECORDS  CFR-018

INTO SOMETHING (I CAN’T SHAKE LOOSE)–PRECIOUS PRECIOUS–BLIND, CRIPPLED, AND CRAZY–NICKEL AND A NAIL–POOR BOY–EIGHT MEN, FOUR WOMEN–DON’T LET MY BABY RIDE–ACE OF SPADES–I’VE BEEN SEARCHING–BLAZE OF GLORY

Altho Overton Vertis  (O. V.) Wright may not have enjoyed the commercial successes of his contemporaries such as Solomon Burke or Wilson Pickett, his voice was no less soulful.  He possessed one of those once-in-a-lifetime deliveries that straddled the line between passion and pain, the profane and the sacred.  Singing in church as a young man served him well throughout his career, and his seminal Sixties and Seventirs sides literally defined the genre’ of Southern soul.

Johnny Rawls was O. V.’s guitar player and bandleader from back in the Seventies, and was indeed with O. V. when the great singer passed on in November, 1980.  Johnny was approached to do a tribute album several years ago by XM Satellite Radio’s Bill Wax, but initially passed on the idea, until realizing that, perhaps, he was the best man for the job, as he recalled the way Wright captivated audiences with these classic songs.

And so it is–Catfood Records has released Johnny Rawls and “Remembering O. V.,” as he puts his own indelible stamp on nine of those great cuts, with one touching original, written by Johnny and bassist Bob Trenchard.  The Catfood Records house band, The Rays, also serve as Johnny’s backing crew throughout.

No one knows these songs better than Johnny Rawls, and his deep-rooted, soulful delivery breathes new life into these classics.  The horn arrangements are authentic and spot-on, and embellish perfectly cuts such as “Blind Crippled, And Crazy,” and the cleverly-done reference to suits in a deck of cards which finds  Johnny declaring “I’m the Ace Of Spades, and you can’t beat me in the game of love!”

One of the set’s highlights is the somber story of the dream-like sequence of being “convicted of loving you” by the “Eight Men, Four Women jury of love,” as Johnny really brings the heat on this one thru his heartfelt vocals and spoken-word passages.

Johnny is joined by another in the short list of soul men still around who knew O. V., Otis Clay, on the leadoff “Into Something (I Can’t Shake Loose), and “Nickel And A Nail,” with excellent guitar from Johnny McGhee.  They close the set with the brilliance of the aforementioned original, “Blaze Of Glory,” where both men vow to carry the torch for classic soul music “til my last dyin’ day.”

Johnny Rawls urges everyone to take the time to discover the music of his great mentor, and with a set as powerful as “Remembering O. V.,” Johnny can add himself to another short list–“they don’t make singers like him any more!”  Until next time—Sheryl and Don Crow

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