Lovers of classic soul music have definite reason to jump up and shout. Without doubt, OV Wright was one of the true icons of the musical genre, and now we are blessed with a new recording from one of the modern masters paying tribute to his mentor. Johnny Rawls has one of those voices that can emote passion and deep feelings with natural ease and grace. Like Wright, this guy could probably sit down at a Waffle House and read the menu out loud and make it sound like the most soulful tune you’ve ever heard. Wait. Did I say one of the masters? There are actually two, as Rawls is joined on three numbers by Blues Hall of Fame inductee Otis Clay which is pure ecstasy for all.
Johnny Rawls is no stranger to the music of Wright, having worked with his band and having the utmost respect for his former employer. The idea for this loving tribute to OV was presented to Rawls by former Sirius XM BB King Bluesville host Bill Wax. Who better to cover OV Wright’s music than someone who experienced and performed it nightly with the originator? Of the tracks featured on this recording, three have appeared on previous albums of his and are redone here. Those tracks, “Blind, Crippled And Crazy,” “Ace Of Spades” and “Eight Men, Four Women” are all Wright masterworks, as are all the selections including one Remembering OV.
Nine classic OV Wright tracks make up the majority of the album. Aside from those previously mentioned, Rawls offers stunning takes on well-known pieces like “Nickel And A Nail,” “Precious, Precious,” “Don’t Let My Baby Ride” and “I’ve Been Searching.” The lone original on the recording is “Blaze Of Glory,” written by Rawls and bassist Bob Trenchard, who also co-produced the disc. The song features the dual vocals of Rawls and Chicago soul king Otis Clay and comes across as strong as every other track on this tribute. It still pays tribute to Wright as well as other soul icons like Little Johnny Taylor. Rawls sings about being with OV Wright as he drew his last breath, which is a true story. His aim is to keep the memory of these past performers alive and the music, too. He will keep it going until his dying day. And though it may not be easy, he’ll go out in a blaze of glory.
Johnny Rawls has released some excellent recordings in the past, but this tribute may be his finest, shining moment yet. This has classic written all over it. One of the most outstanding soul-blues albums I have heard in some time. If you love the music of OV Wright or Johnny Rawls, or if you just love deep down soul-blues, this one is indispensable. A must have. The love that Rawls had for OV Wright is sharply on display here and it’ll hit your heartstrings, too. Bet on it.
Total Time: 34:43
Into Something (I Can’t Shake Loose) / Precious, Precious / Blind, Crippled And Crazy / Nickel And A Nail / Poor Boy / Eight Men, Four Women / Don’t Let My Baby Ride / Ace Of Spades / I’ve Been Searching / Blaze Of Glory