Johnny Rawls | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Johnny Rawls

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Johnny Rawls came of age during the classic soul era of the 60s, serving as a guitarist and bandleader for groups founded by O.V. Wright and Little Johnny Taylor. Since going solo in the 80s he's grafted pop and rock stylings onto that sound, but on his latest album, this year's Heart & Soul (Deep South Soul), he sounds determined to reclaim his roots. As with much of his recent output, the instrumentation tends to be pretty rudimentary, but Rawls's vocals sound more wounded and knowing than ever, and his melodies artfully blend pathos and heaven-bound ecstasy. Though he hews to tradition here, his eclecticism still shows. "You're My Girl," an ode to teen romance in the vein of "Brown Eyed Girl," has a complex major-to-minor-to-major bridge that perfectly mirrors the bittersweet lyrics. And though Rawls's solo is punctuated with bluesy bends and chicken-scratch funk, his long, tubular-toned lines reference southern rock and acid-tinged 60s pop. a 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash, 312-427-0333, $10.

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