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September 2004

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Johnny Rawls and Roy Roberts
Partners and Friends
Rock House Records

Johnny Rawls and Roy RobertsWhat a pleasant surprise this new release by two of my favorite soul/blues performers is. Not only do you get two for the price of one, but you get Johnny Rawls and Roy Roberts at their very best. I guess that it shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise, since the great Rawls/Luckett release from 1994 on the Rooster Blues label showed us what a great harmonizer Johnny Rawls was. It's amazing that ten years have passed since that release first came out.

Partners And Friends also gives us a glimpse at the many talents these multi-instrumentalists possess. Roberts plays guitar, Hammond B3, piano and strings, with Rawls playing guitar, bass and Hammond B3.

The ten songs were all written by both Rawls and Roberts with the exception of the last track, "Let's Go To The Beach," written by only Roberts, a tune which, in addition to "Shaggin' Down In Carolina," is aimed at the ever popular Beach Music phenomenon in the Carolinas.

To quote the excellent liner notes by Kim Thore: "Partners and Friends is moving music.... it moves your feet, your heart and your soul. Songs like 'You Are The One For Me' take you back to a time when men and women danced that dance that meant the night would not end with last call. The sassy track 'Country Boy,' with it's humor and R&B flair demonstrates how Roy and Johnny compliment each other like a well made gin & tonic."

My own personal favorites are the upbeat "Can't You See" and the cheating song "What's Been Going On." Johnny shines on the solo "Making A Fool of Me," a ballad that allows Rawls to croon as only he can --- a fine track that will get some spins by the DJs.

I'd like to compliment Rusty Smith for his horn arrangements that take the songs to a higher level. The Mojo Horns are Smith on trumpet, Scott Adair on tenor and baritone saxes, and Dave Wright on trombone.

In summation, it is obvious that all the performers had a great time with this project and it comes across in the recording. It makes you smile listening to it, just as I'm sure it made them smile as they were making it.

--- Alan Shutro

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