It feels as though Johnny Rawls has been paying tribute to his mentor, the great O.V. Wright, his entire career and it's difficult to believe he is only now getting around to making a tribute record to a man who shaped his sound. Each of his most recent records have featured at least one Wright song, a nod to the time he spent as bandleader for the legend. Remembering O.V. is Rawls' 2013 release and features nothing but songs that were integral to Wright's oeuvre.
Rawls enlists the help of another great soul singer, Otis Clay, in this labor of love and together they breathe life into the music of a man who influenced many without receiving acclaim commensurate with his considerable gifts.
"Blind, Crippled, And Crazy" is a classic of the blues canon recorded by countless greats and bar band wannabes alike, most recently appearing on a new record featuring the amazing Delbert McClinton and Glen Clark. The version on Remembering O.V. first appeared on Rawls' Memphis Still Got Soul but has been remixed and remastered for this set. Rawls' vocal and the horn arrangement are central to a spirited performance that clocks in at under three minutes.
What makes this record special is the relationship Rawls has both with Wright as well as his songs. He spent his life learning and playing these songs and his knowledge of and love for them is heard in every note. "Ace Of Spades," another song from a previous Rawls record, has such a fantastic groove. "Don't Let My Baby Ride" and "Blaze Of Glory" are also standouts.
The link between mentor and mentee is present whether Rawls is performing his own material or songs from Wright's canon but putting that front and center makes Remembering O.V. an especially enjoyable tribute and a fine record.