Tiger in a Cage

By Lady K
April 2016

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Catfood Records, 2016

Out of Mississippi, Johnny Rawls serves up a powerful shot of blues that includes a healthy mix of soul (just happens to be one of Lady K’s favorite cocktails).

Johnny Rawls and Eden Brent handle the vocals. The band is The Rays: Johnny McGhee (songwriter, guitar); Bob Trenchard (songwriter, bass); Richy Puga (drums); Dan Ferguson (keyboards, accordion); Andy Roman (sax); Mike Middleton (trumpet); Robert Claiborne (trombone); Nick Flood (baritone sax). Additional players: Jon Olazabal (percussion); Tommy Sheen (violin); Norma Martinez (cello); The Iveys – Arlen, Jessica and Jillian (background vocals).

There are three great covers on Tiger In A Cage: Sam Cooke’s “Having A Party”, which has a big band sound (Lady K is sure Sam Cooke would be proud of this version); Jackie Wilson’s up-tempo “Your Love Is Lifting Me” (Jackson, Smith, Minor); and “Beast of Burden” (Jagger, Richards) – Lady K loves the Stones and loves this cover.

The remaining tracks were written by Rawls – either alone, or with the Rays’ Bob Trenchard and on “Tiger In A Cage”, Trenchard and Johnny McGhee, which is one of Lady K’s favorites and is a mid-tempo thought-provoker – sad, but true – about the difficulty of surviving life on the street (pitfalls that can happen over and over again). Jail-time: ‘pacin’ like a tiger, locked up in a cage’; then out of jail, back to the streets, and finding the only way to make a living: ‘pushin’ that dope, givin’ up hope.”

Lady K also loved “Born to the Blues,” written with Trenchard and Sandy Carroll (Carroll was reviewed by Lady K for the Boston Blues Society in 2011). “I was born to the blues, got the blues in my blood / Got to keep on keepin’ on / I got to sing and play my songs.”

One more Lady K fave is the mid-tempo, funky “Red Cadillac.” The perfect vehicle to head off to Memphis: “Goin’ down to Beale Street / Got a brand new suit and alligator shoes / My guitar in front, amp in the back.” (and, oh yeah, along with those two girls from Arkansas).

The up-tempo “Every Woman Needs a Working Man” points out what we (as women) should be looking for in life – a WORKING man, and forget all that extra trash they talk – they need to be working: “Don’t need a man layin’ round naked / she need a man that’ll bring home that bacon.”

“Reckless Heart” is mid-tempo and advises the woman whose man has deceived her – and he wasn’t the first one to do that: “You can’t be reckless with your heart.”

The up-tempo “Keep it Loose” is rockin’ blues – get ready to boogie! “Put on your dress and your dancin’ shoes / Gonna cut loose / We got nothin’ to lose.” “Southern Honey” is an up-tempo duet with Brent and her southern drawl (Eden was also reviewed by the Boston Blues Society by Lady K in 2011) joining Rawls. It’s a tune about partying: She “Talk real slow, live real fast / Like to dance and shake my hips / Like French-kissing with my American lips.” Rawls’

“Lucy” is another up-tempo rocker about the life of the party (or the juke-joint). Ain’t no shame in her game - she’s star of the club: “Lucy get juicy / Get on down and pop that Gucci.”

With all of the up- and mid-tempo tracks on Tiger In A Cage, there had to be one slow, sexy love song, and there is – the last track. “I Would Be Nothing” – nice and slow, nice and sexy.

You’ll like Johnny Rawls’ Tiger In A Cage.

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