Johnny Rawls review…September 21, 2017….

JOHNNY RAWLS

WAITING FOR THE TRAIN

CATFOOD RECORDS   CFR 024

RAIN KEEP FALLING (TILL I’M FREE)–LAS VEGAS–WAITING FOR THE TRAIN–I’M IN LOVE–CALIFORNIA SHAKE–BLACKJACK WAS A GAMBLER–I SHALL BE RELEASED–TURNING POINT–WE DID IT–STAY WITH ME

Johnny Rawls is one of the last living links to the classic soul era of the Sixties.  He backed the likes of Arzell “Z. Z.” Hill and Joe Tex while still in high school and served as band director for O. V. Wright, keeping the band together for several years after Wright’s passing in 1979.

He’s had quite a successful solo career, and his latest for Catfood Records continues to solidify his legacy as one of our generation’s finest soul/blues singers.  “Waiting For The Train” contains six originals, five co-written by Johnny, and four outstanding covers.

On this set, Johnny lays down some fine love songs, dance floor groovers, and some sweet gospel-themed tracks.  One of those gospel cuts leads off, as  “Rain Keeps Falling (‘Til I’m Free),  uses the Biblical metaphor of water washing away all his sins, and “take me home again.” Next up is a song co-written by James Armstrong, this one asking a question that is a bit of an oxymoron–“when you go to Las Vegas, do you ever pray?”  The title cut keeps the gospel fires burning as Johnny is “Waiting For The Train to take me where I can feel no pain.”  This one is quite subdued in nature, with Johnny singing in not much more than a whisper.  And, Dan Ferguson’s acoustic piano adds the crowning touch to Johnny’s reverential read of the Dylan  classic, “any day now, I Shall Be Released.”

There are other gems, too.  Johnny and the band hit a swingin’ groove on the Syl Johnson chestnut, “it took a whole lotta doin’, but We Did It,” as he and his lover finally share in their redemption.  “Blackjack Was A Gambler” traces the story of Jack and Sally,  a 21st Century Frankie and Johnny, and this story plays out with the same deadly consequences.  Our favorite was made for the dance floor, and takes a sly look at the latest dance craze–“when you’re out on the Left Coast, you gotta do it right,” the percussion-heavy, “California Shake!”

Johnny Rawls won the Blues Award for his album in 2010 with “Ace Of Spades,” and “Waiting For The Train” may just be next!  Johnny, we love you, man!  Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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