"Going to Memphis in my Red Cadillac. Got the top let down, two Arkansas girls in the back." "Red Cadillac" is the title track from producer/singer/songwriter/guitarist Johnny Rawl’s sparkling new release on Catfish Records and it gets the CD off to a rollicking good start. Setting the tone for the entire album, it features a good driving beat, expressive lyrics and Johnny’s masterful vocals. Just the type of song that you’ll want to hear again and again.
The momentum is sustained on the second cut "Mississippi Barbeque," containing lyrical imagery so intense that you can almost taste the BBQ sauce and red beans and rice. Momentarily closing your eyes, you’re instantly transported to the backyard of a deep south BBQ party. One that is brimming with good food and drink and filled with friendly people ready to dance.
The third number "Can I Get It," displays suggestive lyrics coupled with Johnny’s raw soulful vocal delivery. The lyrics reveal that it’s near closing time at the tavern as last call for alcohol has already passed. The time is ripe for Johnny to pull out his best pickup lines to close the deal, thus guaranteeing the young lady will agree to accompany him home. The song is my favorite cut on the entire enjoyable disc.
Red Cadillac is simply another very fine recording from a veteran soulful blues singer who knows how to deliver the song like few can. His masterful vocal style throughout is a gourmet treat, indescribably good and, at times, reminiscent of Otis Redding. The entire set has a Memphis Stax Records or Muscle Shoals southern vibe, with the tight horn charts giving the project an impressive punch bringing to mind Allen Toussaint.
The polished muscianship on this marvelous blend of soul/blues touched with a hint of jazz adds to the joyful ambiance. The music makes you feel good and gets your toes tapping. The electric guitar stylings throughout are well varied and tasteful. Johnny shows savory restraint, as opposed to some of the showy guitar slingers associated with the blues. Mike Killeen adds some lead guitar to the bluesy "Hard Times" and "Sure Miss Your Love," but the majority of the songs feature Johnny’s unobtrusive guitar playing. He gently pushes the songs along with rhythm licks which put the main emphasis on the lyrical content and the vocals.
On occasion, the lyrics do tend to draw on well-established clichés ("Get It While You Can"). But, that doesn’t matter in the hands of a talented singer like Johnny Rawls. His heart and soul sincerity sells it and always delivers. Kudos should also go to bassist Bob Trenchard of the Texas band The Rays, who wrote six of the 14 all-original songs on Red Cadillac. Trenchard’s songs "Falling For You" and "Moment Of Weakness" are pure soul genius.
At present, Rawls is an underrated musical genius who is well deserving of a much wider audience. If he continues to produce soul blues classics in the vein of Red Cadillac, the public will be forced to sit up and take notice.