Tiger in a Cage
Johnny Rawls was born in Hattiesburg, Ms. in 1951. In the mid seventies guitarist Rawls joined O.V. Wright’s band and became his music director. After Wright died “The Ace of Spades Band” stayed together thirteen more years and wound up backing Little Milton, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Johnny Taylor and B. B. King. Rawls released his first solo album in 1996. In 2008 Rawls released “Red Cadillac” his tenth album at the time and first for Catfood Records. Rawls won a 2010 Blues Music Award as “Soul Blues Album of The Year” for his Catfood Records follow up recording “Ace of Spades”. The title song was a tribute to his mentor Wright. Subsequent albums on Catfood Records include 2011’s “Memphis Still Got Soul”; 2012’s “Soul Survivor”; and 2013’s “Remembering O.V.” each resulting in multiple Blues Music Award nominations.
Last year Rawls collaborated with the late Otis Clay and their “Soul Brothers” album received another two nominations. Rawls is nominated again this year as “Soul Blues Male Artist of The Year”. Overall Rawls has sixteen nominations.
The band heard here are the “The Rays”. Formerly they backed up Kay Kay Greenwade who passed in 2012 as they were then called Kay Kay and The Rays. “The Rays” include Johnny McGhee, guitar; Bob Trenchard, bass; Ricky Puga, drums; Dan Fergusin, keyboards; Andy Roman, alto and tenor sax; Mike Middleton, trumpet; Robert Claiborne, trombone; and Nick Flood, baritone sax. The background singers are The Iveys. The album is produced and mixed by Jim Gaines.
The BMA nominated songwriting team of Trenchard and Rawls have composed five new songs. The title track “Tiger in a Cage” is a soulful tune about an incarcerated young drug dealer. This fabulous production features the background singers, The Iveys , and Middleton’s muted trumpet. The horn section highlights “Born to The Blues”, co-written with Sandy Carroll. McGhee’s guitar and a string section are featured on “Reckless Heart”; Rawls’ vocal and narrative are exceptional. Guest vocalist Eden Brent joins Rawls for a sexy duet on “Southern Honey”.
Rawls adds four more songs of his own including a new version of “Red Cadillac” reprised from that album. Included also are “Every Woman Needs a Working Man” and the crowd pleaser “Lucy”.
The “Soul Brothers” album contained some welcomed covers which resulted in an increased amount of airplay. Included this time are Sam Cooke’s “Having A Party”, Jackie Wilson’s “Your Love is Lifting Me Higher and Higher”, and Mick Jagger’s “Beast of Burden”.
Rawls may be our most beloved surviving soul man. This album is among his very best.