Rick Holmstrom

Hydraulic Groove

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Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers' guitarist, Rick Holmstrom, takes a sharp left turn on his third solo disc. Instead of churning out the traditional West Coast blues he's schooled in, he dives headfirst into the acid jazz/funk pool. While employing loops and samples may scare away his core audience, Holmstrom and producer Genome (who also contributes keyboards) utilize them to make the music even grittier, raunchier, and more swampy than you'd expect. While the blips, bloops, and brittle percussion that provide the landscape over which Holmstrom lays his fluid guitar lines are a far cry from the straight-ahead blues and boogie he's accustomed to in his full-time job, it shows he's willing to expand boundaries in creative ways. Clearly indebted to the Meters on the bulk of this album's funky groove, Holmstrom samples Rufus Thomas' spoken word to punctuate the percussive and keyboard whirlpool of "Shake It, Pt. 2." There's even more processing on the DJ Logic remix of the cut, one of four bonus tracks tacked onto the disc's final 20 minutes. John Medeski makes an appearance on the closing eight-minute jam, "Hamp's Hump," which further solidifies the acid funk sound. Holmstrom occasionally adds vocals on "These Roads," electronically treating his voice, which further highlights the break from tradition. "Pee Wee's Nightmare"'s spacy effects throw the music into a time warp led by jazzy leads vamping over the synthesized loops. "My Maria" works off the beat of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "Going to a Go-Go" and is the disc's most R&B-ish vibe. Depending on your allegiance to roots music, the appropriately titled Hydraulic Groove will either be a forward-looking, genre-exploding work or a misguided attempt to introduce blues to another (younger) audience. In either case, it's never boring and shows that Rick Holmstrom is one of the most challenging of contemporary blues guitarists; one who remains steeped in tradition yet is not afraid to take chances.

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