WILLIE LOMAX BLUES REVUE
Best Blues Money Can Buy
Big Boss 03003
Guitarist / songwriter Willie Lomax’s
new album picks up where his last, Ribs Are Ready, left
off. Recorded in Memphis at Willie Mitchell’s Royal
Recording Studio, the disc re-enlists bassist Leroy Hodges
(on eight cuts) and drummer Howard Grimes (two cuts) of
the vaunted hi Rhythm Section. Walfredo Reyes Jr., who
has recorded with Carlos Santana and Steve Winwood, handles
drums on the other tracks. Tenor saxist Jerry Martini
is afforded ample solo space, joined on four tunes by
baritone saxist Jim Spake and trumpeter Scott Thompson.
Lomax is content to lead the band, write the tunes, take
solos, and play rhythm, and that makes Tampa Bay vocalist
/ organist Shawn Brown the star of the show. Brown gained
national recognition on the last album, and he’s
even better now: His robust B-3 adds muscle and anchors
Lomax’s solos, and though he’s primarily a
soul singer at times reminiscent of Stevie Wonder, he’s
equally adept at blues.
10 originals are, for the most part, reverently derivative,
but it matters little. A cross section of the best tunes
reveals his musical vision. “Ransacked,” strident
Southern soul with wailing sax, is an infectious amalgam
of Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour,”
Eddie Floyd’s “Raise Your Hand,” and
Otis Clay’s “I’m Qualified.” The
somber title track, about materialism’s eventual
void, recalls James Carr’s deep ballads on Goldwax.
Lomax’s shards-of-fire playing is at its best on
this Song of the Year candidate.
Up” is a driving blues shuffle that features guest
guitarist Eric Gales as well as Lomax’s singing
debut, as he admonishes his woman for “buzz bombing”
him “all day long.” The album ends on a curious
note with three varied instrumentals, including the bouncy
“Blues for Ronnie,” a tribute to Ronnie Earl
that opens with Martini’s raucous strip-club sax.
Lomax states in the liner notes, “If I’m going
to record a blues album with soul and feeling, then going
to Memphis gives it the home advantage.” Best Blues
Money Can Buy accomplishes that goal and more. It’s
the Miami native’s best album to date.