I still can't figure out why Johnny Rawls hasn't become better known in the blues mainstream. There just aren't many better singers on the scene than this Mississippi native now based in Milwaukee. Rawls' latest CD, Put Your Trust In Me, makes another strong case for this guy getting to be better known to blues fans around the world.
Rawls straddles the line between blues and soul, never veering far from either genre. On this album he assembles his usual strong cast of backing musicians, most notably the excellent keyboardist Bruce Bears and the always solid Nutmeg Horns. An added highlight is the vocal work of Rawls' daughter, Destini Rawls, who, judging by her brief appearance here, makes a case for her own solo album (which, rumor has it, will happen soon).
Put Your Trust In Me opens with one of its strongest numbers, the snaky blues "Hit By A Truck." Rawls does some of his best singing on this catchy tune, which you'll want to hear over and over again. The vocal lines are nicely framed by effective wah wah guitar.
Eddie Kirkland makes a guest appearance on a pair of songs, adding a batch of urban grittiness to "Should Be At Work" and the rawer blues "Don't Lose Your Good Thing." Phil Guy also plays guitar on the former number.
The aforementioned Destini Rawls steps into the spotlight with her dad on the Ike & Tina-ish soul tune "Gonna Keep On." The horn section does its best work here, especially producer Bruce Feiner's tenor sax solos. For fans of classic soul music, this song alone will justify the cost of the CD.
Another fine number is the interesting "Put Your Trust In Me," on which Rawls delivers some powerfully soulful vocals with a mild Caribbean flavor. Bears' organ work and the horn parts add extra spice to this nice soul gumbo.
Bruce Bears also lays down a nice Hammond B3 foundation on the prototypical "caught my woman cheatin'" blues, "It Ain't Nothin' But The Truth." Rawls adds subtle yet tasteful guitar to this song.
If you like blues with a heavy touch of soul and aren't familiar with the music of Johnny Rawls, then be sure to add Put Your Trust In Me to your shopping list. This is his third album for JSP, and he just keeps getting better.
--- Bill Mitchell
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