The title of Johnny Rawls’ brand new CD Memphis Still Got Soul (Catfood Records) is as descriptive as an album title can get. Johnny’s got the perfect voice for Memphis soul, and the album comes complete with a horn section, Hammond B3 style organ, and sultry female backup singers — the perfect soul music combination.
Out of the gate, smooth horns, twangy guitar chords and a B3 backing kick off the album with the title track, “Memphis Still Got Soul”, a highly memorable song lamenting some of Mamphis’ more famous draws. The next track “Blind, Crippled, and Crazy”, a song made famous by southern soul singer O.V. Wright, is a great rendition of a classic. “Burning Bridges” has a railroad roadhouse backbeat, and is an excellent choice to add variety to the album.
Overall, this is a well produced, enjoyable album for any soul and soul-blues fans. Johnny Rawls has developed a reputation as a soul blues master, (He won 2010’s BMA Award for Soul Blues Album of the Year), and this CD certainly makes good on that reputation! There’s enough variation in the tracks that it doesn’t feels repetitive, a pitfall some lesser soul albums have stumbled on. It’s refreshing to see new soul music being produced. Since the demise of Stax Records, while echoes of the sound can be heard in everything from rock to pop, the Stax-style Memphis soul sound hasn’t graced nearly as many records as is it’s due. The horn section, alternatively filled on trumpet by Mike Middleton, Mark Hutchinson, and Chris Heisel, with the sax by Andy Roman and Michael Kakuk, is tight and adds the lynchpin “Memphis soul” touch, echoing the famous MGs. Memphis Still Got Soul is musically tight, and with Johnny Rawl’s born-to-sing-soul slightly gravelly voice, it can hardly contain all the deep Memphis soul.