Artist: Johnny Rawls
Album: Tiger In A Cage
Label: Catfood Records
Release Date: 02/19/2016
With the recent passing of Rawls’ good friend and soul brother, Otis Clay, we have to appreciate and savor deep soul music even more. There are not many artists left who can deliver this music with the passion and conviction of these two singers. Few are more prolific and consistent than Rawls, who delivers a new recording each year.
With a full complement of horns and background singers, and the esteemed Jim Gaines in the producer’s chair, Rawls channels Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, the Rolling Stones and nine originals he co-penned with long-term collaborator, bassist and label president Bob Trenchard. While most of this music is of the danceable type that drives Rawls’ engaging live shows, the title track is deeply serious, about a 19-year-old black man being sent to prison on drug charges, a bitter commentary on the failed War on Drugs.
Johnny playfully duets with fellow Mississippian and Blues Award winner, singer/pianist Eden Brent on “Southern Honey.” Eden seems to shun his advances, proclaiming, “You ain’t getting any of this Southern honey.” Rawls also offers an irresistibly funky version of his hit- and usual live show closer- “Red Cadillac.” The three song sequence of “Keep It Loose,” Cooke’s “Having a Party” and Wilson’s “Your Love is Lifting Me (Higher and Higher)” captures that “old school” soul party music as well as any three songs on any album in this sadly disappearing genre. Thanks to Johnny Rawls for keeping it alive, and thriving each time he makes an album or performs live. If there’s a pair of high heeled sneakers buried in your closet, this might be the time to dig them out.
– Jim Hynes