The deep soul and blues duo of Otis Clay and Johnny Rawls join forces with an amazing set of backing musicians to deliver to us 6 new songs and 4 superb covers. Rawls, who continues in the footsteps of Little Johnnie Taylor, and Clay, who earned his fame with Hi Records in Memphis under the wing of Willie Mitchell, travelled many of the same circuits for 40 years yet have only become personally familiar with each other in the last 10 years.
Sharing roots in Gospel and touring the US and globe as soul stars gives these two guys a common heritage and now they take what they learned as fans of each other into practice, delivering very emotional and powerful performances on these 10 enchanting tracks.
The backing band is a marvelous assemblage. The Rays are the band and they are Richy Puga on drums, Bob Trenchard on bass, Johnny McGhee on guitar, Dan Ferguson on keys, Andy Roman on sax, Mike Middleton on trumpet, Robert Claiborne on trombone, and Nick Flood on sax. Add to that the sweet Iveys on backing vocals (Arlen, Jessica and Jillian) and you have a wonderful assemblage that allowed the production of this excellent soul album.
The CD starts out with Dave Mason’s popular “Only You Know and I Know.” I loved the original, the Delaney and Bonnie 1971 cover of this song and now with these two soul greats I can chalk up a third great version that I will savor. Backed by a solid band, they do this song justice and keep it fresh and cool. “Momma Didn’t Raise No Fool” is a new cut and features a sound from the great horn section and the two gentlemen just lay it all out in this funky and tasty selection.
With “Voodoo Queen” we have another original song. Rawls introduces us to the New Orleans vixen who cast a spell on him and then Clay takes over the lead vocals for another verse and chorus. The last part of the song features guitar, keyboard and lets the boys in the band take us home. I was waiting for big duet to perhaps complete things, but this was good, too. Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” starts with Otis and then Johnny comes in for his solo. Rawls does a bit more in a later chorus and backing vocals but this is mostly Otis’ song and he delivers the goods. Trenchard and Rawls cowrote “Living On Borrowed Time” as they did “Voodoo Queen.” The Soul Brothers split the leads and alternate back and forth on this jumpy and danceable cut.
The second half of the CD starts with “Turn Back the Hands of Time” which is a Tyrone Davis tune. The boys go back and forth as the horns and vibes chime in soulfully. A thoughtful and tasteful cover tune for sure! Trenchard, Rawls and Clay worked to give us “Road Dog,” a song about life on the road. Al Basile contributed in writing “Poor Little Rich Girl,” a nice, slow, soulful story about how the poor little rich girl who can’t buy love. Ferguson offers some nice keys and McGhee’s guitar also speaks to us a bit. This one is a winner! Rwls gives us “Hallelujah Lord” and starts things off praisefully and prayerfully. Otis takes his turn and then the two of them go at it as they and the band testify sweetly to us. Kay Kay Greenwade’s “Waiting For Dreams” sends us offwith another powerful performance.
Soul music lovers are going to rejoice when they hear these two great masters do a complete album together. There is no “one-upmanship;” these guys work as a team and give us a very thoughtful and inspired set of performances. If you are a blues and soul fan it’s time to buy a new CD- you won’t regret adding this one to your collection!