Johnny Rawls – Walking Heart Attack

Catfood Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2023

Although each release – be it a recording, a movie, or any other production where awards are given – needs to be judged on its own individual merit, not on the track record of the artist, the actor, the producer, etc; there are certain ones that are just too easy to assume will be acknowledged with some type of a nomination. That’s pretty much how I feel about a new Johnny Rawls album. With the Blues Music Awards (even going as far back as when they were called the W.C. Handy Awards), the Blues Blast Awards, and the Living Blues Awards, consistently acknowledging Johnny with many nominations and wins, he not only has the track record, but his products consistently deliver the goods.

Johnny’s latest release is titled Walking Heart Attack and, since he’s back on Catfood Records, Johnny – on vocals and guitars – is once again being backed up by the ‘Cats at Catfood’, a.k.a. The Rays. They are: Dan Ferguson on keyboards; Richy Puga on drums; Johnny McGhee on guitar; Bob Trenchard on bass; Andy Roman on sax solos; Nick Flood on baritone, tenor and alto saxes; Mike Middleton on trumpet; and Frank Otero on trombone. Other performers include: Jon Olazabal on percussion; Janelle Thompson and Shakara Weston on background vocals. Six of the disc’s ten tracks are originals or collaborations of Johnny, and/or the ‘top cat’ himself, Bob Trenchard.

The opening and title track – “Walking Heart Attack” – is one of the three collaborations between Johnny and Bob, and a simple look at the picture on the front of the jacket pretty much tells it all. But just in case you need more details, here’s Johnny take: “Every mother’s nightmare, every man’s dream; Sexy long legs and skintight jeans. Built like an angel, eyes like a cat; Way too hot, ain’t got no thermostat. She looks good from the front, and better from the back; That girl’s a walking heart attack.” And yet, as deadly as she very well may be, why do I think Johnny just might not care? Musically, the Rays are in a very funky, dance floor filling groove – and if she’s out there, and Johnny’s watching, his palpitations could already be starting.

As he did on his I Miss Otis Clay release back in 2019, Johnny once again pays homage to his longtime friend and music associate, with a masterful vocal performance of “Trying To Live My Life Without You” (E. F. Williams), a song made famous by Otis. When it comes to great rhythm sections, names like Layton & Shannon; Baker & Bruce; Watts & Wyman; and so many others come to mind; and when it comes to great horn sections, some of them that have a city or state, and a whole bunch of others who have the name of the band they were with in front of the word horns, all come to mind. Then you have The Rays – with the keys, the drums, the bass, the guitar, and half a dozen various horns – who are unquestionably as good as all of the above rhythm and horn sections put together. That said, they brought all that to this, and pretty much all of these tracks.

On one of his originals, Johnny thanks God for being “Free” and he sings of the many blessings that come along with that. His emotional vocals, the angelic backing support from Janelle and Shakara, and the heavenly organ vibe Dan’s got going on, all give the song a soothing spiritualistic feel.

Another of the compilations is one called “Tell Me The Truth”. Sadly, while asking for it, Johnny might not actually want to hear it. You see, from the picture he’s painting about his woman’s wanton ways, the answer will be an obvious “Yes!” when he asks, “Tell me baby are we through?”. The song gets its blues edge with a handful of stinging guitar leads from Johnny McGhee; while the always outstanding horns of Andy, Nick, Mike and Otto and the smokin’ rhythm and percussion groove that Richy, Bob and Jon are in, all add the funk. Another musical gem.

The disc closes with “Mississippi Dreams”, a beautiful song written for Johnny by his writing partner Bob. The song offers Johnny a platform to honor his home state and the fond memories associated with it. Speaking of Mississippi, Johnny – as far as I know – is the only person to be mentioned on two markers along the famed “Mississippi Blues Trail”. More great vocals and vocal harmony and a scorching sax solo from Andy are just a part of this one’s many highlights.

Other tracks on Walking Heart Attack – an album I’m predicting you’ll see listed on several blues award programs, in several categories, include: “Born All Over” (D. Malone & J Copeland); “Heal Me” (D. Procell); “One More Sin” and “Lies” (two more compilations); and “Hungry Heart” (B. Springsteen).

To find out more about Johnny Rawls just go to – – Remember, wherever you go and whomever you contact, please let them know The Blewzzman sent you.

Share It!