New Release

BLUES & RHYTHM (issue#184 / NOV 2003)

Big Boss BB03003 (50:16)
Ransacked/ Best Blues Money Can Buy/ Come Down Mama/ Can’t Get Enough/ TKO/ Lighten Up/ When the Lights Go Out/ Blues For Ronnie/ Pompadou/ Freedom Is Not Free

     Miami, Florida guitarist, bandleader, and songwriter, Willie Lomax is nothing if not consistent; he always takes a decent length of time between releases, spending time refining his material and money could be safely placed that it will result in a classy effort – so too with this CD, the follow-up to ‘Ribs Are Ready’ which featured Frank Frost, Sam Carr and James Peterson, as well as tracks recorded in Memphis, Tennessee. Lomax returned to Willie Mitchell’s Royal Recording Studio for this set, which once again sees him making good use of the considerable vocal and Hammond B-3 talents of the acclaimed Shawn Brown, as well as enlisting the aid of bassist Leroy Hodges and drummer Howard Grimes.

     Willie is a generous figure and certainly at least the first half of this CD is as much a showcase for Brown (who even has his photo on the front cover with Lomax’s) as for the leader – the latter restricts himself to rhythm guitar on the opening number, a soul stormer in classic Otis Redding fashion. Next up is a slow-burn item, poised perfectly on the cusp between southern soul and the blues, with intense vocal, droning horns and good arrangement with clever use of backing vocals – oh, and some fine guitar! ‘Come Down Mama’ finds Brown injecting some jazz style into his soul approach, and to my ears this is the least successful song on the set as the florid singing quickly becomes wearing. ‘Can’t Get Enough’ reprises that blues/ southern soul approach of the title track to excellent effect once more, whilst ‘TKO’ blends a bit of Otis Rush with a cool sixties r&b vocal and a touch of surprisingly tasteful wah-wah guitar.

     ‘Lighten Up’ marks Willie’s vocal debut, which is more of a novelty than anything else (though not displeasing), but the track is really noteworthy for some fierce instrumental sparring between Lomax and Eric Gales; there is some lovely, tough Freddy King styled playing. ‘When The Lights Go Out’ is again slow and intense and despite lasting almost ten minutes it is a gripping performance, both vocally and musically, reminiscent of Buddy Guy in his prime, but exhibiting a self-discipline and understated approach that Buddy has rarely achieved. Closing out the album are three instrumentals, which do shift the focus onto Willie’s own skills; in order they present fifties big band r&b (nice greasy sax here from Sly & the Family Stone founding member Jerry Martini, who impresses throughout), Stax funk, and a tightly controlled Hendrix styled workout, written in response to 9/11.

     In Shawn Brown, the Revue has an excellent vocalist, and in Lomax a modest bandleader, beautifully restrained guitarist, and noteworthy songwriter. A first rate, all-original, southern – particularly Memphis – flavoured blues album with plenty of soul undertones is the very pleasing outcome.

Norman Darwen


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