Blues Bytes


July 2009

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Johnny Rawls
Here We Go
JSP Records

Johnny Rawls

I still recall the first time I heard Johnny Rawls in person. My first reaction was, "Wow! Where has this man been all my life?" I was familiar with the name because of a 1994  album he had done with L.C. Luckett (reviewed in Blues Bytes in December 1997) but had never seen the man live. To put it simply, I was blown away by the his tasteful blues guitar licks and soulful singing. I quickly gathered what fellow Phoenix Blues Society board members I could find at the club that night and we made a quick decision to invite Rawls to appear on our next blues festival.

A dozen years later finds Rawls still on the blues scene with 12 albums in his own name, as well producing CDs for other artists and running his own record company, Deep South Soul. In addition, Rawls tours constantly, playing over 200 dates a year.

Here We Go, issued on JSP in 1996, was the first Johnny Rawls album. The title is appropriate, considering that it re-launched his career and put him in front of the worldwide blues audience. The recordings, done in Jackson, Mississippi in March 1996, present Rawls just as one would see him on stage, combining blues and soul with a touch of gospel in a very palatable form.

All 11 cuts on this disc are Rawls originals. His rich soulful voice is showcased best on the songs that I consider to fall into the "soul anthem" category, so it's not surprising that I consider "I Would Be Nothing" and "Sweet Woman" to be the CD's highlights.

Rawls can also play the blues, and he wrings the anguish from his guitar on the slow blues number "I Got A Problem." For a more upbeat tune, the catchy mid-tempo "Candy Man" is solid.

Here We Go is just one of the many excellent recordings in Rawls' discography. Whether it's his best is a matter of personal opinion. But it's certainly a good place to start in assembling your own Johnny Rawls collection.

--- Bill Mitchell


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