Johnny Rawls ‘Tiger In A Cage’ (Catfood) 5/5

johnny-rawlsJohnny Rawls can rightly be described as the last of the original southern soul/blues men, the last bastion of a style of music that can trace its roots back to the late 40’s/early 50’s. His albums have always spanned the divide between the Blues/Rhythm & Blues and Soul. However whilst such luminaries as OV Wright, Otis Clay, Willie Mitchell and his Hi Records, labels like Fame, Atlantic, Goldwax had vast roster’s and hit the big time, Johnnie has always been there in the background doing what he does best, not copping out. He has supported just about everyone on the circuit and is so well-respected by fellow artists and music connoisseurs alike. Personally I have 11 of his albums on the shelves and I hope to see that number swell in time, for me his style of music is a timeless mixture of all that is great about that ‘Southern’ sound.
He came to some prominence in the UK in 1994 when his “Can’t sleep at night” set surfaced, modern soul jocks jumped on the title track and it was played at many venues to huge dance-floor success. Johnnie Rawls has always kept himself busy and in recent times has shared an album with Otis Clay (2014) and put an OV Wright tribute album out (2013).
So, now to the latest album which has received a very luke warm response but for some of us it was an instant purchase, it’s another traditional sounding Rhythm & Blues-come-Soul album, it contains covers of Sam Cooke’s “Having a party” and Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher”, both treated to a southern treatment which works well. There are two standout moments on here that really do make the album a must buy. First up we have the string laden dancer, yes that’s right, a southern soul dancer with strings, in the shape of “Reckless Heart”, this has had radio plays by at least one jock, then there is the excellent retread of Johnnie’s own “I would be nothing” which is a stunning down-tempo number. The album kicks off with another high point with the moody title track full of lovely guitar licks, setting up your ears perfectly for what lays ahead. There’s a Willie Mitchell inspired chugger “Born to the Blues”, which is the sort of tune that white folks try to imitate. Mick Jagger’s “Beast of Burden” gets a wonderful horn introduction with steady percussion and evolves into a classy mid tempo dancer.
In conclusion. If you were looking for an introduction to the southern blues/soul sound then this album would be a fine starting point. Easily gets the 5* rating.

Brian Goucher