Remembering O. V.
More than a typical tribute album, Johnny Rawls’ Remembering O.V. is a loving salute to a legendary mentor by his most gifted apprentice. Rawls served as O.V. Wright’s musical director during the '70s and kept his backup band going after the R&B singer’s death in 1980. He honors Wright’s legacy by covering his tunes with both taste and passion, enlisting the help of Chicago blues giant Otis Clay on three tracks. As a vocalist, Rawls fully connects with the steamy Memphis soul of “Into Something (I Can’t Shake Loose),” “Blind, Crippled and Crazy," and “Don’t Let My Baby Ride,” displaying the same mix of gospel fire and carnal desperation that made Wright so compelling. He testifies with suavity on “Precious, Precious,” fully captures the romantic mojo of “Ace of Spades,” and serves up the tragic scenario of “Eight Men, Four Women” with style. The album benefits from the expert support of guitarist Johnny McGee, keyboardist Dan Ferguson, and sax player Andy Roman, with the Iveys adding background vocals at crucial moments. Rawls’ original “Blaze of Glory” offers his memories of O.V. with palpable fondness and a jaunty spirit worthy of Wright himself.