With a fast and furious blast of fretwork, Adam Holt wastes no time in declaring himself by opening with the title track from his debut, "Who I Am." Yup, he's young (mid-twenties), and yes, he's got chops to burn. And while leading a tough quartet - Henry Jolley on drums, bassist Paul Williams, with Bo Roberts handling keys and John Brock on harp - through an all-original set, Adam shows considerable promise.
The second cut, "Killer On The Loose," serves to reinforce that impression, but one can already see that Mr. Holt has some songwriting chops as well; this one's buoyed by some great organ, and features a few tricky changes that raise the bar a bit. By the third track we know Adam's capable of much more than simply recycling 12-bar riffs. Driven by acoustic guitar, "The End" is a rootsy road song with Adam's gruff vocals achieving an appropriate world-weariness.
"Drunk On Love" is a bit of a rave up that unfortunately doesn't quite work as well as it should. I suspect it has to do with the production, as each of the constituent parts is okay - it's more about the glue that doesn't quite hold it together. "Holding On To Your Love" is a soul ballad, admittedly far removed from blues but one of the disc's high points nonetheless, evidence again that Adam has a sure compositional hand. "Honey-Do's" is a breezy shuffle, with another excellent vocal turn and some interesting harp accents from Mr. Brock; "Going Back To Mobile" is (not surprisingly) a southern funk workout, with Mr. Jolley's drums providing a slippery and irresistibly propulsive foundation. Adam breaks out the acoustic guitar again for a solo "Queenie Makes Me Feel (Like A King)," taking the opportunity as well to show that he himself is no slouch on the Lickin' Stick. Entirely different from Mr. Brock's high, lightning-fast style, his is a thick-toned and raw sound, entirely appropriate for the tune.
"How Do I Love Thee," borrowing the famous opening line from Elizabeth Barret Browning, puts a decidedly bluesy spin on the question, in the form of a grinding shuffle with more of Bo Robert's exemplary organ work. "Knockin' At Your Door" is a mid-tempo tune that's not quite blue, not quite rock, but works anyway; the listed tracks wrap up with "Hole In My Pocket," a nice slow tune that'll ring a bell with anyone who's ever had to explain where all the money went (new guitar?) to a significant other. Nice, restrained picking is contrasted by some extraordinary harmonica work from Mr. Brock; I'd caution him, however, not to become too enamoured of his own virtuosity; a little goes a long way. The by-now-almost-obligatory hidden track is a version of "Mojo Workin" that doesn't add anything new but is fine anyway.
Adam wrote almost everything here, also handling production and design. While there are a few glitches (notably a glaring typographical error, probably caused by a font substitution) that should have been fixed prior to release, all in all this is a satisfying release by a younger player who looks to have a great future ahead of him. No, it's not essential. But Mr. Holt's next outing just might be . . . keep an eye out for it!
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