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October/November 2014

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Johnny Rawls & Otis Clay
Soul Brothers
Catfood Records

Johnny Rawls - Otis Clay

Last year, after taking in the outstanding O.V. Wright tribute album recorded by Johnny Rawls with assistance from soul legend Otis Clay, I hoped that a future collaboration, hopefully a complete album, between the two was in the works. One year later, I find out that dreams do come true, as Catfood Records has issued the amazing Soul Brothers, bringing the two icons together for ten tracks of soul/blues heaven.

On paper, this seems like a dream match. Both Rawls and Clay had their beginnings singing in the church and both have roots that go back deep into soul music. Rawls was Wright’s music director and guitarist back in the ’70s and continued with the band after Wright’s 1980 death, backing many of the era’s soul and R&B acts. Clay’s musical history is well-known to most soul/blues fans, with his Hi Records output being some of the finest soul music ever put to wax.

Backed by the inestimable Catfood House Band, The Rays (Richy Puga – drums, Johnny McGhee – guitar, Dan Ferguson – keyboards, Andy Roman – sax, Mike Middleton – trumpet, Robert Claiborne – trombone, and Nick Flood – sax) , with backing vocals from The Iveys (Arlen, Jessica, and Jillian), Soul Brothers includes a dazzling set of originals written by Clay, Rawls, Catfood CEO/Rays bass player Bob Trenchard, Al Basile, Darryl Carter, and Jose Hernandez, plus four first-rate cover tunes.

The duo alternate verses on the songs with Rawls’ understated, smooth vocals forming an ideal complement to Clay’s fiery, impassioned delivery. The originals range from the funky “Momma Didn’t Raise No Fool” and “Voodoo Queen,” to “Living On Borrowed Time,” “Road Dog,” to the inspirational “Hallelujah Lord.” The four covers range from familiar soul/blues fare (Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” and the Tyrone Davis standard “Turn Back The Hands of Time”) to the less familiar, but no less effective (Dave Mason’s “Only You Know and I Know” and Kay Kay Greenwade’s “Waiting For Dreams”).

Soul Brothers should be required listening for any fans of soul/blues music. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long musical collaboration between Johnny Rawls and Otis Clay.

--- Graham Clarke
Read Graham's blog


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