Johnny Rawls review…February 18, 2016…

JOHNNY RAWLS

TIGER IN A CAGE

CATFOOD RECORDS  CFR 022

TIGER IN A CAGE–BORN TO THE BLUES–RED CADILLAC (RAYS VERSION)–EVERY WOMAN NEEDS A WORKING MAN–RECKLESS HEART–KEEP IT LOOSE–HAVING A PARTY–YOUR LOVE IS LIFTING ME (HIGHER AND HIGHER)–SOUTHERN HONEY–LUCY–BEAST OF BURDEN–I WOULD BE NOTHING

Johnny Rawls is back and in top form with his latest set for Catfood Records, “Tiger In A Cage.” One of the true living legends of soul-infused blues, this set finds him bringing more of that award-winning blues we’ve become accustomed to.  Produced by another legend, Jim Gaines, the twelve cuts run the gamut from juke joint stompers, sweet soul love jams, and one very topical cut.

We’ve known Johnny since before that “Red Cadillac” was brand-new back in 2009.  He reprises that tune herein, with excellent backing from The Rays, epitomizing the good-time nature of the song, as he heads down Beale Street, with “the top dropped down and my hair slicked back!”  He cruises on down to the juke joints of Mississippi with true party anthems such as “Keep It Loose” and “Lucy–there ain’t no dance she can’t do!”

For the lovers, he spins a tale of a young woman who has to learn the hard way about toning down her “Reckless Heart.”  Johnny closes the set with a vintage soul ballad, “without your love, I Would Be Nothing.”

We had several favorites, too.  Johnny does a fine, uptempo take on Sam Cooke’s “Having A Party,” and turns “Beast Of Burden” into a funky, Hi-styled classic.  There’s also a playful, sexy duet with Eden Brent set over a second-line rhythm pattern, as Johnny spends all his money tryin’ to get a little bit of “Southern Honey!”  The set’s leadoff title cut deals with the harsh realities of the lure of easy money thru the drug culture in today’s society, leaving young lives ruined and locked up like a “Tiger In A Cage.”  It’s socially-conscious, and Johnny shouts out to the immortal Curtis Mayfield and “Freddie’s Dead.”  With the use of muted trumpet and wah-wah guitar, this one indeed does have that mid-Seventies feel.

Johnny Rawls proudly sings “after forty years, I’m still going strong,” and he is nominated in the “Soul Blues Male Artist” category for the 2016 Blues Music Awards in May.  With a set as powerful as “Tiger In A Cage,” be prepared for him to come home a winner!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

 

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