Mississippi born Johnny Rawls is a perennial Blues Music Award nominee in the categories of Soul Blues Male Artist and Soul Blues Album. This is the BMA winner’s twentieth album not including collaborations. Rawls took home his first award for his 2009 “Ace of Spades” album and another this year for “I’m Still Around” his first recording for the new Third Street Cigar Records label.
“We can be glad that Johnny Rawls is still around. His smooth, soothing, sensuous vocals define the phrase ‘sweet soul music’ and he remains the best soul blues singer today. Mississippi-born Rawls has received at least 16 Blues Music Award nominations. Rawls’ newest CD is one of the best of the year, so it should certainly win him a few more nominations…. On the title track, Rawls tells his story of life in music; he reminds us that he’s been up and he’s been down, but he wants the world to know that he’s still around…. There’s not a bad song on I'm Still Around, and the best songs display Rawls' ability to get inside a song and deliver with honesty, emotion, and soul, and to create a beautiful moment that touches us or gets us moving. Thank goodness he's still around and sharing his gift with us on albums like this one."
Henry L. Carrigan, Jr
Living Blues Magazine #257 October 2018
Catfood Records/Deep South Soul has a new release by the veteran soul and blues performer, Johnny Rawls, Soul Survivor. The album is aptly titled given that Rawls has been laying down his own brand of blues and soul since his days backing the legendary O.V. Wright and later as part of Rawls and Luckett who issued a most memorable release fro Rooster Blues.
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.
As you already know, the hard working man that Johnny Rawls is, you shouldn't be surprised that he has a new CD ready for April 2012 release, cocked and ready to go, titled "Soul Survivor."
In a Blue Mood - May 2012
"Memphis Still Got Soul" may be his best cd yet. Like Rawls' previous releases, Memphis Still Got Soul re-creates the soul drenched Stax-Volt sound, and like those great old records, the lyrics are true-to-life poetry delivered with sincerity. The playing and singing on this cd are top-notch. This is a great release---it should continiue Johnny Rawls' string of BMA awards. Winning soul blues."
Sunday Night Blues Project - June 2011
"Memphis and Rawls haven't lost their soul at all as anyone can clearly hear on Memphis Still Got Soul. He shows that classic blues and soul haven't gone anywhere with songs anyone can relate to no matter who they are. Rawls better get ready for some more awards with this new album." MuzikReviews.com - June 2011
"If you like good soul music--that sweet soul music--then turn the spotlight on the latest effort from Johnny Rawls. From the drum beat and horn section intro of the title track you may feel like you stumbled upon the Stax Records archives ...you get the flavor and feel of soul music at its zenith. This is a strong CD. Spotlight on Johnny Rawls, y'all. Oh yeah. Oh, oh yeah!" Blueswax-April 2011
"Its been a while since we've had the pleasure of hearing anything quite as soulful as the latest from Johnny Rawls, Memphis Still Got Soul. While the April release of Memphis Still Got Soul was too late to garner a nomination for the Blues Music Awards cojing up in Memphis in just a few weeks, you can bet you'll be seeing Rawls among next year's soul award nominees." BluesPower-April 2011
"Soul-flavored blues delivered in Johnny's smooth, deeply-soulful voice. This set harkens back to his early days and the cuts evoke memories of the heyday of Stax, Hi, Sun and the sounds that permeated Beale Street. Johnny is no stranger to the Blues Music Awards, having won 2010 Soul Blues Album of the Year for Ace of Spaces. Given the strong material included in Memphis Still Got Soul, he's right on track to make it two in a row!"
Nashville Blues Society-April 2011
Ace of Spades (Catfood Records 2009)
Winner Best Soul Blues Album of the Year
Nominated Best Male Soul Blues Artist
Nominated Album of the Year
Living Blues Magazine Reader's Poll
#4 on the Living Blues Radio Chart
Top 20 for three months
#1 on Bluesbeat in Australia
"Johnny Rawls has carved a niche for himself as a master of soul-blues, delivering uptempo songs with solid pop hooks, as well as smooth vocals with just the right touch of grit and Stax-style horns." Blues Revue
"Johnny Rawls has matured into a singer of enormous depth. His understanding of blues and soul centers his work on the song and delivery, and that alone separates him from the rest of the pack." Blues Revue
"Rawls deserves national soul stardom...his blues/soul synthesis is seamless." Living Blues
Red Cadillac (Catfood Records 2008)
Nominated Best Soul Blues Album of the
Year Blues Foundation
Nominated Best Soul Blues Artist of the
Year Blues Foundation
Charted #1 on Living Blues radio chart
Critics Award for Best Album of the
Year Living Blues Magazine
"Rawls deserves national soul stardom...his blues/soul synthesis is seamless." (Catfood Records 2008)
"Building on his impeccable background as a guitarist and bandleader of soul legends such as Little Johnny Taylor and O.V. Wright, Johnny Rawls has proven to be one of the most dependable artist on today's soul-blues scene. Over the years, Rawls has established himself as a master of the mid-tempo soul groove. If you've come to associate the name of Johnny Rawls with quality soul-blues, you won't be disappointed with Red Cadillac ."
Jim DeKoster Living Blues
Heart & Soul (Deep South Soul 2006)
Nominated "Best Soul Blues Album 2007" by Blues Foundation
**** 1/2 "You can't re-invent the wheel but you can still make top of the line tires. Mr. Johnny Rawls has not invented a new genre of music but he's doing it as good as anyone ever has. With an impressive catalog of 9 studio albums full of original Soul Blues ranging from his classic "Can't Sleep At Night" thru his critically-acclaimed 2005 outing, "No Boundaries" Rawls has never succumbed to fads or flavor-of-the-month production tricks. He just makes Deep Soul Blues like they did in the 60's.
"Heart & Soul" is his same mix of midtempo Southern Soul & Blues, laced with horns, Cropper-esque guitar licks and raspy singing but it's as fresh and stirring as it was in the 60's. In fact, the knockout "Missing You" is on par with Clarence Carter's "Slip Away", an obvious influence. The addition of sweet harmonica (Michael Kakuk) is an extra hook to what is already a three and a half minute ear massage. "You're My Girl" is a quick booty shakin' romp featuring an extended guitar solo my Mike Kileen. "Still A Woman" is a classic Deep Soul ballad highlighting the earnest ache to Rawls' seasoned voice. Perhaps the cut that'll garner the most attention is the driving "true real story" song "Damn Cocaine". A bass heavy chugger with a perfectly timed stop and start that describes a friend's descent into addiction. "You can have fortune and fame and still get hooked on cocaine". Fortunately the song has a happy ending.
Rawls has made plenty of good music throughout his career but as he himself says: "This is the real Johnny Rawls".
Dylann DeAnna Blues Critic 2006
"Johnny Rawls has the earthiness of B.B. King and the Memphis of Al Green."
The London Times
His gritty, seasonal vocals, wrote Blues Revue, follow in the grand tradition of Southern soul giants such as Otis Redding, James Carr and Rawls' former employer, O.V. Wright."
"...Throughout, Rawls' guitar work is characteristically tasteful yet emotionally intense. In almost every way, this is Johnny Rawls' most fully realized outing yet.
David Whitesis Living Blues Review
No Boundaries (Deep South Soul 2005) Catfood Records
*** 1/2 Johnny Rawls discovered a band named Kay Kay & The Rays in 1999 and produced a CD by them, the acclaimed "Texas Justice". The band split up last year so Rawls called on The Rays to record the aptly titled "No Boundaries". Rawls made a name for himself with a classic Memphis soul blues sound, but here he mixes things up with touches of roots, folk, rock & gospel with a live band feel. All songs were written by bassist Bob Trenchard and they take Rawls off the beaten path. The refrain on the opening "Show Me The Way" sounds surprisingly like 60s-era Joe Cocker with Rawls' gritty vocals and spirited female backups. The inspirational "Keep The Faith" begins like something from the Windham Hill catalogue with a new age acoustic guitar intro.
Meanwhile "Fallen Bird" features a Spanish guitar. "Even Though You're In Heaven" is a strong piano & acoustic ballad that radio may embrace. "Train Keeps Rolling" is a fine blues shuffle with some tasty piano licks. The cautionary "Long Black Car" has Rawls warning "You won't get to heaven the way you're bound" or "in a long black car". The best way of describing this cut is "country reggae". If you're waiting for a straight Southern Soul number you won't find it but all the songs got some soul. It may take Rawls fans a couple of listens to warm up to this but there's definite crossover potential.
Dylann DeAnna Blues Critic 2005
"No Boundaries" erupts from your speaker like a crackling fireball. JazzReview.com
"Rawls proves why he is the show stopping presence he has become" Southwest Blues
"Rawls' most eclectic release to date. Rawls responds to the Rays influences by releasing his most impressive CD to date." Blues in Britain Magazine
"No Boundaries" is powerful and inspired, replete with top-notch instrumental and vocal performances and a superb, soulful batch of songs." Blues Revue
Partners & Friends (Rock House 2004)
Both Roy Roberts &Johnny Rawls are well respected artist/producers/
songwriters/guitarists/label owners and obviously they are friends who wanted to record a project together. Both are masters of retro-soul blues,country soul, authentic R & B and deep southern soul. (go find Rawls' CD with LC Luckett called "Can't Sleep At Night" for a lost classic). The new disc "Partners and Friends" serves up 10 earnest, good time songs that will delight fans of either. ...The main highlights: "Don't Let This Love Slip Away", "Reach Out" & "Can't You See" are mid tempo horn-fueled soul heaven. ...The Carolina "beach music" scene gets two new prospects with "Shaggin' Down in Carolina" & "Let's Go to the Beach". This is a no-brainer purchase for fans of this genre! Dylann DeAnna Blues Critic
Lucky Man (Deep South
**** Rawls starts his own label and releases his best disc to date. The title track and "Real Love" are absolutely perfect retro deep soul radio singles. In fact, the whole disc is pure pop/soul heaven. There's horn-fueled numbers like "Call Me" & "Still Together" and bass-heavy grooves like "I Need Some Love" & "Got To Be Careful". Even better is the slow soul of "Picture In A Frame", which recalls his great work with LC Luckett. Rawls' daughter Destini Rawls sings backups on this album. Once again this music ain't unbounded and sweaty, it's professional and taut. But it's still soul. Dylann DeAnna Blues Critic
"Lucky Man" is an auspicious start for Johnny Rawls' new label and yet another satisfying record in a log and fruitful career."
Bad Dog Blues, WITR (Rochester, NY)
"Johnny Rawls first album for his new label Deep South Sound is everything one has come to expect from the talented performer, plus some." Southwest Blues
"What can I say except buy this CD. It really will make you smile." Blues Bytes
Get Up and Go (JSP 2002)
The Best of JSP Years
*** 2 Disc anthology featuring some of Rawls best solo sides and best productions of other artists on the label. Disc one is Rawls, which includes "Bad Reputation", "Here We Go" and more. Disc 2 features Phil Guy on "Say What You Mean", Johnnie Marshall on "Jodi Man", "A Bluesman" by George Stancell and tracks by daughter Destini Rawls, Willie Edwards, Percy Strother, Chris Beard and Lonnie Shields.
Put Your Trust In Me (JSP 2001)
" Johnny Rawls is one of the best artists mining the soul-blues genre today laying down consistently pleasing records and blazing a trail of great live shows wherever he plays." Bad Dog Blues, WITR (Rochester, NY)
"(Rawls) emphatic, soulful vocals would make most anyone a believer." Blues News (New Zealand)
"There aren't many better singers on the scene today than this Mississippi native." Blues Bytes
"Handy nominators take note: Put Your Trust In Me is one of the year's top soul recordings." Blues Review
"You can indeed put your trust in Johnny Rawls to deliver a worthwhile album every time out." Living Blues
My Turn To Win (JSP 1999)
**** New set highlighted by two of his best songs: The bouncy "Lucy" and pop/R&B confection "Bad Reputation". Perhaps his best JSP record. For lovers of authentic modern R & B you can't go wrong with Johnny Rawls. No drum machines, no programming. While his sound isn't lowdown and greasy, let alone raucous with gospel-fevor like classic Atlantic/Stax sides, the smooth urban grooves embodies the should of rhythm and blues. Rawls is a perfectionist in the studio and his sound is clean. Dylann DeAnna Blues Critic
"The man is a pro who can write, sing and play the strings." Blueshound.net
"a carefully crafted package loaded with attractive soul efforts." Living Blues
"...a stunning soul record with an infectious groove throughout." Bad Dog Blues, WITR (Rochester, NY)