A familiar voice to Moab blues lovers will be in town again next week.
Johnny Rawls will play at Frankie D’s Bar and Grill from Monday through Wednesday, Jan. 14-16. The Mississippi bluesman, who has performed in Moab for the past 15 years, will play a selection of old favorites and songs from his most recently released CD, “Soul Survivor.”
Rawls, 61, was born in Hattiesburg, Miss., and fell in love with the blues when he heard his blind grandfather play guitar one Christmas morning. It was almost impossible not to catch blues fever in that area, he said during a telephone interview.
“I was fortunate growing up around it, hearing people playing on their porches,” Rawls said. “Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett – everybody had to come through here.
“It is something about the earth, God, the people. Every area has a different culture, and Mississippi is the birthplace of American music.”
Rawls’ album titled “Heart and Soul,” released in 2006, was nominated for a Blues Music Award for Best Soul Blues Album of the Year. The West Coast Blues Hall of Fame named him Best Vocalist the same year.
The song “Eight Men, Four Women,” one of the tracks on “Soul Survivor,” is nominated for Soul Blues Album of the Year and Rawls nominated for Male Soul Artist of the Year.
He keeps a fast pace on the road. In January, for example, Rawls had 13 performance dates on his schedule in places from Memphis, Tenn., to San Francisco. He has toured Europe several times and has also toured Australia and Japan.
Rawls said he enjoys the interactions with people he meets in clubs.
“When people tell me ‘I got married to that song’ it gives me joy,” he said.
Although best known as a performer, Rawls also is a producer and prolific songwriter. Which role does he like most?
“I enjoy them all equally,” Rawls said. “One breaks up the monotony of the other.”
His repertoire includes gospel songs, and Rawls said he is a religious person. “But like the blues say, I just can’t leave the women alone,” he added with a chuckle.
He views his Moab appearances as a homecoming, saying he has many friends here. It’s likely that local blues fans will have plenty of chances to hear Rawls in the coming years, too. He said he doesn’t plan to slow his touring pace.
Asked how long he plans to perform, Rawls answered quickly: “Until the lights are out. I have enough material for the next 25 years.”