The record starts off with the title track, the story of a prodigal son locked up in jail, the tiger pacing his cell, his life hopelessly derailed by bad choices made on the street. Now, with a rap sheet and legitimate work impossible to come by, the life of a dealer is all that awaits him when he gets out.
“Born to the Blues” is up next, Rawls musical testament to his life’s calling. Bob Trenchard’s chugging bass and Johnny McGhee’s understated guitar work lay the foundation for Rawls to expound on his mission of singing the blues.
This time out Rawls is listed as writer or co-writer on nine of the twelve tracks. The record has a good party vibe and solid backing vocals courtesy of the Iveys. Rawls usual band the Rays are up to the challenge of bringing the new songs to life and providing a solid framework for their boss to pin his soulful voice on.
On “Southern Honey,” a duet with Eden Brent, Rawls more than meets his match. The playful number tells the story of a woman “who married well, divorced even better.” Money seems to naturally find its way to Brent’s charmer. She’s an independent woman who likes but doesn’t need the attention of men. And she isn’t about to give up the southern honey, no matter what Johnny Rawls says to persuade her.
The best song on the album? The first feel-good single of spring is actually a re-working of Rawls’ 2008 release “Red Cadillac.” A story-song about riding with the top down on the way to the blues show, and with your favorite girl riding in the backseat; “Red Cadillac’ swings on the bass lines and guitar riffs of Trenchard and McGhee, and glides on the underpinnings of the Hammond B-3. This is pure good-time soul, Memphis, not Motor City, with a perfect sax solo outro. If this one doesn’t get you up and moving check your pulse.
Along the way there are covers of Sam Cooke’s Having a Party, and the Stones Beast of Burden. They are all fine, of course, but cruising in that Cadillac is such a fun ride that you realize why your player has a repeat button. Go ahead, wear it out.