Rawls has recorded and produced for a variety of labels including JSP and most recently Catfood/Deep South Soul, of which Soul Survivor is his most recent effort. On this new recording he is again joined by co-producer Bob Trenchard and the solid Texas studio band with the exception of the last track which was recorded in Montana. Together with Trenchard, Rawls has come up with nine originals along with a cover of O.V. Wright’s Eight Men, Four Women.
The opening title track, penned by Trenchard and keyboardist player Dan Furguson, has a nice lyric of Rawls traveling the highways playing his old school blues and soul with his crack band. He is the last of his breed to set one free on his one night stand singing about O. V. Wright and Johnny Taylor may be gone but he is going to keep their flame alive.
Hands Me Downs is a nice medium grooving about singing about tired about getting all these hand me downs whether his first guitar, used shoes, or his first wife, and he contributes a nicely shaped guitar break. He does a solid job of covering Eight Men, Four Women, even if he can’t quite vocally match Wright (I mean, who can). King of Hearts picks up the tempo with a driving groove and brassy horns, while Long Way From Home is a soulful ballad where Johnny sings about missing his woman and can’t wait until he is home with her.
Other songs include Drowning, a heartfelt lament about searching for his baby and drowning in a river of tears. Don’t Need a Gun To Steal, is a bit of cynical social commentary about politicians being paid off and there is a crook in every town. J.R.’s Groove is a funky instrumental that allows everyone the stretch out. The closing Yes has a touch of country flavor in the accompaniment (in part provided by Michael Kakuk’s dobro and lonesome sounding harmonica) behind Rawls’ strong singing.
Anyone familiar with Rawls recent recordings will know what to expect with the clean and crisp backing, idiomatic horn playing and Rawls committed vocals. Soul Survivor is another substantial recording by Rawls on Catfood/Deep South Soul.
I received my review copy from a publicist for the release which is scheduled to be issued on June 19. Here is a clip of Johnny Rawls in performance.