Saturday, April 29, 2017

Rawls & Luckett Can’t Sleep At Night

Rawls & Luckett
Can’t Sleep At Night
Rooster Blues / Rounder

Johnny Rawls and L.C. Luckett are veterans of the chitlin’ circuit having formed the nucleus of deep soul singer O.V. Wright’s last band as well as backing Latimore, Lynn White, Willie Cobbs, Z.Z. Hill, and Little Johnny Taylor.

This is their debut album as leaders, and it offers a hearty mix of deep southern soul and blues with a dash of gospel. Material is mostly originals by the pair although two tracks are associated with Wright, I Don’t Do Windows and a medley of I’d Rather Be Blind/ Crippled and Crazy coupled with Ace of Spades. While Wright’s influence can be heard in the pleading urgency of several performances, including the title track and What Makes a Good Man Go Bad, the mood on others, like the soulful ballad Can We Talk It Over, owes as much to Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Sam and Dave.

Their blues generally are not as distinctive lyrically or instrumentally as their hard soul tunes, but the impassioned singing and playing makes If You Not Home By Tomorrow a particularly arresting track. The dance number Shake It, Shake It Baby (“let me see you pop,”) is a lightweight funky dance number that suggests a slightly uptempo Get Out Of My Life Woman. Most of their songs though are solid performances, capturing a range of moods and settings - from deep soul to the slight swamp/pop flavor of Soul to Soul.

Rawls and Luckett overdub on guitar, bass and keyboards with horns added to several tracks, and Arthneice ‘Gas Man’ Jones adds harp to Be Fair To People and If You’re Not Home Till Tomorrow. Certainly this album compares very favorably with most of the recent similar efforts from the Ichiban and Malaco labels, and it’s well worth more than a listen.

This review originally appeared in the March 1995 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 199). I received my review copy from the record company. This should still be available from various sources. 

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