Where Have All The Soul Men Gone
Third Street Cigar Records
Johnny Rawls was born in Mississippi in 1951. The guitarist learned by backing musicians when they would tour the state. In 1975 Rawls joined O.V. Wright’s band and became his musical director until Wright’s passing in 1980. Rawls kept the band together another thirteen years and played with B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Little Milton. After recording two albums as a duo, Rawls released his solo debut “Here We Go” in 1996. Rawls met Bob Trenchard the following year and together they produced Kay, Kay and The Rays 2001 album “Texas Justice”. Rawls signed with Trenchard’s Catfood Records in 2006 and won his first Blues Music Award in the category of “Soul Blues Album” for 2009’s “Ace of Spades”. In 2014 Rawls collaborated with his friend Otis Clay and released “Soul Brothers” winning a Blues Blast Award. Rawls signed with Third Street Cigar Records and in 2018 released “I’m Still Around” winning a second BMA for “Soul Blues Album”. Overall the prolific Rawls has nineteen albums, and twenty BMA nominations.
“Where Have All the Soul Men Gone” is Rawls’ third release for Third Street Cigar Records and follows on the heels of last year’s “I Miss Otis Clay”. The album was recorded at the Heyman Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark; and at the Bigfoot Studios in Waterville, Ohio. Rawls, guitar, keyboards and vocals; is joined by keyboardist/vocalist Alberto Marsico (who recorded with Maurizo Pugno and Sugar Ray Norcia); and Erkan Ozdemir (Shawn Pittman), bass; his son Levant Ozdemir, drums and vocals; and Kenan Ozdemir, guitar and vocals. The Waterville Horns include Travis Geiman on trombone, and Mike Williams on alto saxophone. Additional guitar is provided by Larry “Entertainment” Gold.
All of the songs were written by Rawls. The title track opens with the band members chiming “where have soul men gone” as Rawls tells his story mentioning O.V. Wright, B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Otis Redding. Now alone he sings that “he’s got to keep the dream alive”. The horns open “Bottom to The Top” as Rawls sings “I was down and out…you came along and rescued me…” On “Can’t Leave It Alone” he sings that “you got everything I need”. Rawls’ raspy soul drenched voice is a delight as the band continues to provide the backing vocals.
“I’ve been singing a long, long time …I’m gonna’ Keep On Doing My Thing”. On “Money”, Rawls’ sings “people say money ain’t everything…if you need some money put Johnny on the stand…if you need some money raise up your hand”. “Town Too Small” features the lyric “I want to scream but the town’s too small”. “Time” features Rawls’ singing “somebody tell me where the years have gone…how time slips away”. On “Baby, Baby, Baby”, he sings “I want you to be my girl”; Gold takes a guitar solo and the horns decorate, as the production fades. The closer “Calling On Jesus” is an up-tempo gospel infused foot stompin’ revival.
This is sweet soul music, and soul just doesn’t get any sweeter.