Whether or not there's satisfaction and enjoyment found in this new Rick Holmstrom outing will depend entirely upon how adventurous the listener is. For the purists... beware! This ain't your mama's blues! Holmstrom has been a mainstay on the Left Coast for a number of years now, due to his placement in Rod Piazza's Mighty Flyers, but he's also laid down some smoldering guitar for others, including great work behind Johnny Dyer. Something of an anomaly, he is, and why can be understood in his approach to his chosen instrument; he never traverses the traditional path, instead coming completely out of left field and tearing across the seams sideways. Even when smoking up the proceedings on pure blues discs, his guitar style careens and twists unlike most blues players, adding new flavors all the time. "Hydraulic Groove," due from Tone-Cool Records, moves these ingredients light years ahead and odds are in Holmstrom's favor considering his young age and previous penchant for taking a road less-traveled. While the folks at Fat Possum have taken some knocks for messing with traditional blues players like R.L. Burnside, Holmstrom has youth on his side.
It's obvious from the opener, "These Roads," that this wunderkind has a desire to move blues seriously into the future. Multi-tracked layering, dubs, samples, and the whole nine-yards come into play throughout the length of this disc, which clocks in at 50 minutes. "Bobo The Hobo" offers considerable depth with the fat organ simmering underneath a solid funk groove as Holmstrom rips hardcore blues from his strings, and "Last To Know" shows just how far his vocals have stepped up to add more interest to his work. "Pee Wee's Nightmare" might be considered 'psychedelic lounge jazz' but there's little doubt where home is; snarling guitar influenced by T-Bone Walker and Crayton blasts over the top of a wickedly sinister shuffle where horns honk, keyboards swell, and drums drive the point further into the senses, and while this might well be popular for those who enjoy techno-dance music, blues remains as the foundation. "Shake It, Part 2" hands out more hysteria from the backward beat and distorted guitar where "My Maria" takes a Latin feel into the stratosphere, and on "Back It Up" Holmstrom covers more territory on his axe than a drive across the country, the aluminum sheet-like rattling and six-string work coming somewhere from the bizarro world. "Gravy" finds incredibly thick guitar handling bristling behind Holmstrom's sincere vocal, and the "Harlan Shuffle" sounds like a cross between Lionel Hampton and John Philip Sousa, but "Tell Me" is simply crazed with a repeating and riveting beat, looped electronic howling, and whacked-out guitar that screams Holmstrom's roots. "I'm Gone" is easily the most traditional of the tracks, although it fits comfortably among the set thanks to the drum mix which battles the lowdown strangling Rick manages, and if that's not enough, a couple of bonus tracks sneak up in the form of a ballad and a liquid-like Jimmy Reed pump.
Take a twisted blues-guitar lunatic like Rick Holmstrom, place him in a recording studio with all the toys at his disposal, then put a well-versed engineer/producer like Rob Schnapf behind the controls who isn't afraid to step over boundaries or twiddle knobs, as he has with R.L. Burnside, Beck, and others, and the outcome is bound to be instantly imaginative. There have been hints at what blues could become in the 21st century, but this might well be the best example yet showing the possibilities to their fullest potential. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or the Girlie Action crew at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information. Check into www.tonecool.com/holmstrom and see a growing list of comments on the message board. This is sure to raise eyebrows and discussions between purists and modernists alike considering it's laced with dance grooves, technical mischievousness, and hard-edged blues guitar. Highly recommended.
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