New Release


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.

     Lomax’s 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.

     “Lighten 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.

Thomas J. Cullen III



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