Legend's Bar and Grill in St. Cloud, Minnesota has been booking some excellent blues acts for its Wednesday Blues Revue, thanks to the efforts of Twin Cities bluesman, Joel Johnson. On March 29, Johnny Rawls his band, The Mississippi Blues Band, took the stage at Legend's to provide three sets of great blues, r+b and soul music.
Anchored by Rawls and long time guitarist (17 years), James Carson, the band also included bassist Greg Allen and drummer Eddie Gillespie. One of the most amazing things about the band at Legend's was the fact that there were no horns in the band. Since Rawl's recordings have always included an ample horn section, I was curious to find out how the band would address what I felt was a critical component of Rawl's sound. My question was answered quickly by guitarist James Carson who employed a Roland guitar synthesizer to cover the required horn section, as well as all of the keyboards!
The Purvis, Mississippi-born Rawls has an excellent voice, rich and full of power, capable of rising far above the electrified sound of his backing band. This was never more apparent than when Rawls sang a significant portion of "I Would Be Nothing Without My Woman," walking through the crowd singing without a microphone.
Rawl's three sets included tunes from his two JSP recordings, "Louisiana Woman" (JSPCD286) and "My Turn To Win" (JSPCD2116), along with some cool renditions of songs that included James Brown's, "Sex Machine," Muddy Water's classic, "I Got My Mojo Working" and B.B. King's, "The Thrill Is Gone," which included an excellent "keyboard" solo by Carson on his synthesized guitar.
Rawl's Mississippi soul-blues sound permeated the show in songs like "Working My Way Back To You," "Let's Get It On" and "I'll Take You There." Rawls was not afraid to get down and dirty too, as was evident in his lowdown tune, "Lucy" from "My Turn To Win."
The other members of The Mississippi Blues Band were also able to demonstrate their exceptional talents with Greg Allen taking the vocals on several songs and drummer Eddie Gillespie being featured on his own composition, "Juke Joint Boogie." Prior to the start of the song, Rawls exclaimed that the band was going to "turn this place (Legend's) into a juke joint."
Johnny Rawls put on an excellent show, developing a nice rapport with the audience. The music was great and, as always, it ended at a reasonable time for those patrons who would have to get to work in the morning (including yours truly). I am looking forward to seeing Rawls again, the next time he is in the Twin Cities area and to my next visit to Legend's for the Wednesday Blues Revue.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.