Musician: Johnny Rawls

Publisher:  Catfood Records

Audio CD (October 15, 2013)


Back in the '60s, O.v. (Overton Vertis) Wright was among the R&B singers some DJs labeled "sock 'n soul." Unlike kindred spirits like Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, or Solomon Burke, Wright's success was mostly regional, especially in the Deep South. His career got off track in the '70s with prison time and drug issues. Then, he sadly left us at the age of 41 on November 16, 1980.

Ever since, no one has done more to keep Wright's legacy alive than Johnny Rawls who was O.V.s band leader for five years. He even kept the band going for 13 years after Wright's death before starting his own solo career. Now, Rawls has put together a tribute collection that should take any listener, whether they know who O.V. Wright was or not, back to the glory days when the Atlantic/Stax sound of raspy vocals and horn-heavy backing players were a hefty part of AM radio airplay.

Three of the nine Wright covers on Remembering O.V. are reworkings of songs from Rawls previous albums. These include “Blind, Crippled And Crazy,” “Eight Men, Four Women” and the 1971 hit, “Ace Of Spades.” Also from 1971 is a new version of “Nickel And A Nail” along with lesser known songs such as “Precious, Precious,” “Don’t Let My Baby Ride” and “I’ve Been Searching.” Fans of Wright might be surprised at some of the omissions, most notably Wright's biggest hit, 1964's "That's How Strong My Love Is."

On three of the tracks, Rawls is joined by longtime blues/soul veteran Otis Clay. The Rawls/Clay vocal pairing is most poignant on the one original song, the album closer "Blaze of Glory." Co-written by Rawls and bassist Bob Trenchard (also co-producer), the number is about the night Wright died as told from Rawls' personal point of view. If you're going to close out a tribute with your memories of a mentor, this is absolutely the way to do it.

You don't have to know any of this to appreciate Remembering O.V. All you really need is an affection for '60s-style soul music. Every ingredient you remember is here on every track. If you liked Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Percy Sledge etc. etc., here's a new chapter to add to your musical library. As they used to say, and Rawls is saying now—Lord, have mercy!

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