Johnny Rawls Revue | Buddy Guy’s Legends | Blues, Gospel, and R&B | Chicago Reader

Johnny Rawls Revue Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Thu., Aug. 26, 9:30 p.m. 2010

Vocalist and guitarist Johnny Rawls has an impressive deep-soul pedigree: he served as musical director for both O.V. Wright and Little Johnny Taylor, and in the 80s he worked the southern circuit on his own for several years. His true gift, however, is his ability to leaven those influences with sparkling pop. His voice, though seasoned with gospel grit, is a buoyant instrument graced with youthful lightness; his guitar leads, though rooted in southern blues and soul, are brightened with melodic gaiety. At times in his career these tendencies have worked against each other, but when he's on his game he mixes them into a deeply satisfying pop-soul stew, as on his most recent recording, last year's Ace of Spades (Catfood). Spurred by full-bodied horns and propulsive funk rhythms, he evokes his chitlin'-circuit roots with a leathery rasp on outings like "Live for Today," and on "Drive All Night" he fuses pop, power-ballad rock, and soul-blues into an effortless-sounding whole. Rawls delivers the caustic social commentary of "American Dream" with a bracing fusion of anguish and anger, and on "He's a Good Man" he's in full preacher mode, fervid yet tender. —David Whiteis

Price: $10

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