Rick Holmstrom is an Alaska-born, California raised guitarist who has made his fame and fortune by working with the likes of William Clarke, Rod Piazza and Johnny Dyer, while developing his own version of West Coast blues through a number of solo efforts including Lookout! (1996) and Gonna Get Wild (2000). On his latest solo effort, Hydraulic Groove, Holmstrom attempts to bring the blues face-to-face with the 21st Century by giving it a whole new sound, while retaining many of the basic elements of the musical form. Although several artists including R. L. Burnside, North Mississippi Allstars and Bob Log III have attempted to put a new face on the music with some cutting edge work, Holmstrom seems to have brought together the whole package on Hydraulic Groove.
Will everyone like this CD? Probably not. For the blues traditionalist, this CD may prove to be totally frightening with its funk, hip-hop, electronics, sampling and other high tech sounds. However, I think that Holmstrom has managed to do something that only guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan have been able to accomplish previously; modernizing the blues for a younger, more contemporary audience. After the first hearing of Hydraulic Groove, I can almost guarantee you will have an opinion about the music it contains.
Hydraulic Groove starts off innocently enough with three fairly straightforward cuts, "These Roads,""Bobo the Hobo" and "Last To Know," although "These Roads" opens with a Robert Ward sample from a song called "Hot Stuff" that resurfaces periodically throughout the song. Holmstrom's guitar is ever present, particularly on the instrumental "Bobo the Hobo." Also obvious in these three songs is the piano, organ and Wurlitzer work by Genome.
With the opening of song number four, "Pee Wee's Nightmare," the feel of Hydraulic Groove begins to change. "Pee Wee's Nightmare" has a throbbing, hypnotic groove that is punctuated by sharp guitar licks from Holmstrom and unusual keyboard sounds from Genome. The following song turns even farther away from traditional sounding blues as it opens with a Rufus Thomas sample from the W.C. Handy Awards, followed by an electronic sound laced song entitled "Shake It, Part 2" that includes a repetitive guitar lick with a cornucopia of other sounds. This unique track returns later on the CD with the DJ Logic Remix featuring some interesting variations in the sound. Except for the sampled vocals, this is essentially another Holmstrom instrumental number.
The CD continues with another more conventional sounding cut entitled "My Maria" featuring Holmstrom on vocals and more of his distinctive guitar and a driving drum beat that reminded me of the Bob Seger song "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." The CD moves back into the netherworld on "Back It Up" which features some frenzied horn riffs, electronically altered drums and Holmstrom's guitar answering each horn blast. A smoother, spacier feel is developed on "Gravy" although Holmstrom's guitar has a different sound that would be considered typical with more random, disorganized blasts.
On "Harlan Shuffle," Holmstrom offers a jazzier feel to the music that includes some excellent guitar with a blast of "Revelry" thrown in, to wake up the listener no doubt to this quieter sounding tune. Genome also offers some additional interesting keyboard and celeste sounds throughout the cut. The barrage of interesting and sometimes random sounds occurs again on "Tell Me" along with random blasts from Holmstrom's guitar, a recurring vocal line and occasional yelling. The "non-bonus" tracks end with a return to traditional sounds on "I'm Gone," a standard shuffle dominated by Rick Holmstrom's guitar and honky tonk piano from Genome.
Hydraulic Groove concludes with four "bonus tracks" including the previously mentioned DJ Logic Remix of "Shake It, Part 2." Among the other three tracks, "Roll Tape" is another instrumental dominated by the organ work of, not Genome, but John Medeski. Medeski appears on one other bonus track, "Hamp's Hump," to finish off this interesting recording by Rick Holmstrom. The Genome Remix of "Knock Yourself Out" (I have no idea what happened to the original mix) is back on the unusual side of the street with a repetitive guitar lick, heavy electronic sounds and trash can lid sounding drums. A mentioned earlier, the CD concludes with "Hamp's Hump," another organ heavy instrumental featuring John Medeski, with a nice guitar solo by Holmstrom and some Frank Zappa sounding sax by Ronald Dziubla. The song has a definite jazz feel, much like occurs earlier on "Roll Tape."
Despite the dramatic departure from the norm that I found on Hydraulic Groove, I must admit that I came away liking Rick Holmstrom's musical "experiment." If you want to hear a little of Hydraulic Groove before making a purchase, visit the Tone Cool Records website at www.tonecool.com where you can listen to samples of "Bobo the Hobo," Shake It, Part 2" and "Roll Tape." Once you are convinced of the quality Hydraulic Groove, you can proceed to your local record store to make your purchase or take care of it right at the website.
Tone Cool Records
P.O. Box 81034
Wellesley Hills, MA 02481
Simply click on the CD cover at left to order this CD NOW!
This review is copyright © 2002 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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