No Boundaries was the #35 blues cd for radio airplay for the year in 2005. It reached #7 on the Living Blues chart for US and international radio airplay in October and stayed in the top 25 for four months. It was an XM Satellite Radio Pick To Click and was on heavy rotation on XM for several months. It was selected as one of the top blues cds of the year by both Real Blues Magazine and the syndicated blues show, Smokestack Lightnin'. It has received rave reviews from Downbeat, Blues Revue, Living Blues, Blues Revue and many other reviewers. Blues Matters, the English publication, wrote, "Absolutely great! If you only take a chance on one unknown album a year, make it this one."
The combination of Johnny Rawls, a consummate blues man with his strong, soulful voice and The Rays, known for their eclectic, hot blend of jazz, funk, roots rock and blues makes for a powerful listening experience. Blues Revue raves "No Boundaries is powerful and inspired, replete with top-notch performances and a superb, soulful batch of songs....For No Boundaries, Rawls recruited the Rays...a smoking funk/jazz/soul/blues outfit...The outcome is stellar...Rawls'Otis Redding/Al Green brand of vocal is the glue holding No Boundaries together. But--and Rawls would probably be the first to pose the question--with songs and players this good, how hard can that be? Kudos to Johnny Rawls for pulling it all together." Jazz Review writes "No Boundaries erupts from the speakers like a crackling fireball...Without a doubt, Rawls has bashed through musical and racial boundaries to enlist some of the best sounding musicians of his career...Long-time Rawls and Rays fans will cherish this collaboration and many new fans are sure to be made". Living Blues writes "This disc evokes Rawls' mentors in deep soul and soul/blues, Little Johnny Taylor and O.V.Wright, even as it departs freely from the structural, melodic and thematic conventions usually associated with those genres and artists. The material is uniformly eloquent. The overall atmosphere is meditational, even brooding. Rawls, Trenchard and their bandmates have accompplished their mission here."
While Kay Kay and The Rays broke up in 2004, Rawls talked Rays bassist/songwriter Bob Trenchard into reuniting the band for "No Boundaries" which was recorded in Texas and Memphis and also features Memphis artists Jackie Johnson and Reba Russell on background vocals. Rawls discovered the Rays in 1999 and produced their first CD, "Texas Justice" which was selected one of the top 25 blues releases for 2001 in the 9th Annual Real Blues Awards. Rawls is a four-time nominee as Male Soul Vocalist for the W. C. Handy Award, the blues equivalent of a Grammy. His previous recordings are in the classic soul style of the Stax and Hi Records hits from the 60's and 70's. With "No Boundaries" Rawls and the Rays break new ground, going beyond traditional soul/blues by blending elements of gospel, jazz, funk, roots rock and country with his classic soul style.
Johnny Rawls has traveled a long way from Purvis, Mississippi where, when still in high school, he worked with such stars as Z.Z. Hill, Little Johnny Taylor, Joe Tex and The Sweet Inspirations when they toured in his area. In the mid-70's, Johnny went to work for O. V. Wright as Wright's band director. After Wright died in 1980, Johnny joined Little Johnny Taylor and led his band for several years. By 1985, Johnny Rawls was touring as a solo artist and had made his first solo recording. In 1994 he recorded the widely acclaimed album Down To Earth on the Rooster Blues label with L. C. Luckett. The following year, he and Luckett released Can't Sleep At Night, also on Rooster Blues. In 1996, JSP released his solo effort Here We Go. Johnny continued as both a recording artist and producer for JSP for years until he started his own record company, Deep South Soul, and has released his CDs Lucky Man and Live In Montana on his own label. Johnny Rawls appeared on the cover of the April 2002 Living Blues magazine which described him as "a soul-blues renaissance man". Johnny Rawls tours constantly, playing over 200 dates per year in the United States and Europe.
Kay Kay and the Rays 2003 release Big Bad Girl reached #10 on the blues radio airplay charts as reported by Living Blues and was selected November 2003 Blues Pick by XM Satellite Radio. Blues Revue wrote that the Rays have "an approach of their own and a message...funk, jazz, soul and blues for the thinking person." The Rays sound also has roots rock and gospel influences. Inpress, the Australian weekly music magazine, wrote that the best of the sold-out, five day East Coast Blues & Roots Festival in 2004 were Dr. John, Solomon Burke and Kay Kay and The Rays, writing "The Rays were wild and smoking with a dynamo sax player."
Blues In Britain Magazine writes "Rawls responds to the Rays influence by releasing his most impressive CD to date. Quite an achievement considering the strength of his back catalogue."