Willie Lomax

The Best Blues Money Can Buy

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It's easy to play blues by the numbers, since every musician knows the form and the changes, and blues isn't a lyrically demanding genre. But playing blues by the numbers is exactly what Willie Lomax doesn't do, and his crafted songs have a heart and soul that lift them into the rarefied Stax Records territory. It doesn't hurt that the vocalist on Best Blues Money Can Buy is the impressive Shawn Brown, whose singing here conjures up the ghosts of great Memphis singers like James Carr and Otis Redding, and whose B-3 playing does so much to set up the reverent, churchy, and deeply soulful feeling of this record. Lomax's guitar playing doesn't have to carry the full load here, which allows him the freedom to put in the lines that matter, and the end result is an impressive album that transcends the stereotypical constraints of contemporary blues. From the opener, the sax and organ-driven "Ransacked," through the instrumental soul-jazz of "Blues for Ronnie" (dedicated to Ronnie Earl) and the incisive lyrics of "Freedom Is Not Free," Best Blues Money Can Buy is a solid statement of what the blues can be when it comes from the heart.

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