When I think of the oddly sobriqueted Catfood Records, I also call to mind another label, Catbone, and its sidestream, Catbone Unreleased, which issued a highly impressive series of anthology discs with some of the most righteous ground-level blues, soul, and r&b musics I've ever been slain by (see the FAME archives for the coverage). That set immeasurably boosted my interest in those modes, paving the way for anticipatory expectations in the Catfood label and others, in which Otis Clay & Johnny Rawls' Soul Brothers is the latest. I've reviewed Rawls twice (here and here), Bob Gottlieb caught him also (here), and this release finds the gent teamed up with Otis Clay in a rocky, funky, soulful duo.
I was gratified to see the pair covering Dave Mason's Only You and I know, converting it in a baptism of East Side righteousness, but the song that followed, Mama Didn't Raise No Fool, really got me going. Melodic, growly, framed in vocal harmonies and traded-off lead spots, the cut got beneath my skin, took me right back to the 70s and the best of the Temptations, Chambers Bros., Rare Earth, and other killer soul-blues practitioners. Everyone drops straight into the pocket on this one and never leaves it, infectious as a viral happiness epidemic fueled by ground level joy juice.
Voodoo Queen, written by Rawls in tandem with rock solid Catfood mainstay Bob Trenchard, takes things more to the back roads only to be yanked back to the Big City once more in the immortal What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted. Road Dog written by all three (Rawls, Clay, Trenchard), travels to Chicago for a watering-hole drinking song. Rawls' own Hallelujah Lord is a hip gospel cut while Poor Little Rich Girl sees Al Basile (here) joining up with Trenchard in a classically written Motown groove. So what explains all this harmony? It turns out that Clay and Rawls had been pretty much chasing one another along the same tour circuits for four decades but had never met up until this gig. Man, that Lady Luck dame sure has some odd ways about her, but, eventually, everything comes together like it should, as is the case here.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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