Y’all know what I’m saying – sometimes it’s so damn good for ya that ya just gotta go back and hit it again, heh heh. Well that’s where we are at with these reviews, popular demand and that lyrical voice calling me back for more so, clean yourselves up, grab a squat up and get ready for another round seriously good for ya CD reviews.
There is a sound out there that exists between Rock, Blues, Rockabilly and Surf music, really there is. I, for one, am glad that no one to this point has given it a classification as we are want to do. What it is called is immaterial but one cat who has it down is Rick Holmstrom.
On his latest release “Cruel Sunrise” Mr. Holmstrom lays it all down on disc for our enjoyment. Starting with ‘Need To Dream’ he explores the regions of the mind that are so vital to our well being – dreams and dreaming. There is a strong rock beat that recalls early Smithereens, but with a certain pleading urgency to the lyrics that belies the seemingly simple song.
The title track follows with a reverb drenched guitar intro that turns into a funky walk-about styled song that paints an impressionistic aural vision of his vilipend attitude towards sunrises. As others may embrace them he finds that everything looks better in the moonlight. His guitar work on the other hand much deserves the light of day as it is constructed much like jagged edges that cut deep but ultimately heal themselves because of their wholeness and absolute value and worth.
Mr. Holmstrom has a long and pedigreed history in the Blues and Roots music world. Having played with William Clarke, Johnny Dyer, Rod Piazza Rick can now be found touring alongside Ms. Mavis Staples as part of her fine, fine band. Ms. Staples takes the vocal reigns on ‘Owe You Everything’ and ‘Lord Please’ – this simple act speaks volumes about how highly regarded he is amongst the elite of the Blues framily.
All songs are written by Mr. Holmstrom (12 in total) and this release has given us evidence to his growing ability as a songwriter. ‘It’s Time I Lose’ opens with a very funky intro that morphs into a fusion of styles that ultimately come out sounding like Mr. Holmstrom. Yet, it is his word play and the effectiveness of the lyrics to tell a story that stands out. As a guitar player he can stand in with the best of them, his phrasing and use of space and chord structure are far above the norm and combined with his lyrical ability to grok the given situation makes this his very best release.
To learn more about Mr. Holmstrom stop by his web page http://rickholmstrom.com/
Blues as a curative is not unknown to our framily, personally I have just gone thru, yet another experiencing of this fact. Mr. Zac Harmon is a cognoscente in this matter and has provided us with a release that not only speaks to the fact but also proves it beyond a doubt.
With ‘Blue Pill Thrill’ Mr. Harmon sets us up with an Albert King styled intro (that carries through the track) as he visits what certainly has become both the saving grace and the bane of modern couples. Aptly stated referencing the fairy tale “it’s what Jack gave Jill when they went up the hill, the Blue Pill Thrill’ all set to a sweet and funky blues beat. I can hear this playing on my 70” flat screen during the football season, actually yeh why not!
Music as a healer stands besides the eternal conflict of the artist being torn between the Devil and the Lord. Zac deals with that subject with ‘Running From The Devil’ as he weaves a chant-like chorus intermixed with tasty guitar work as the keyboards offer a solid base for him to work his funky mastery on.
Not all funk, stomp and blue pillin’, Mr. Harmon shows his ability on several softer cuts. ‘Wounded’ starts as a slow breathy duet with Ms. Sueann Carwell that ramps up into a spilling out of accusations and exposed hurts as they lead to a cathartic conclusion of passion and pain. Take note – the guitar intro on this burner must have had Jimi Hendrix channeling thru Zac, as it played much like ‘Castles Made Of Sand’ but as only could be expressed thru Zac.
As close to a title track is ‘The Healer’ which serves as the absolute truth with the great line “…music is medicine…it’s an overall cure, chicken soup for the soul’. This is played out in a sweet, funky minor key testimonial to his beliefs that he has been anointed by his Father’s hand and offers us some soul exposing guitar work to back up the claim.
‘Joanna’ has the feel of late seventies soul drenched R&B that came out of Memphis or Detroit. Horns playfully punctuating the deep fried soul of Mr. Harmon’s vocals and snappy guitar work that rides us into a wonderful piece of keyboard artistry by Mr. Corey Lacy. This closes out the disc which of twelve original and provoking tracks that address all sides of the rubix that is the heart of this release. “Music Is Medicine” will certainly prove to be the aliment not only for your ears but for that much deeper spot, deep down inside your soul.
Zac does indeed have a web site you should visit there: http://www.zacharmon.com/
What I don’t understand is why this band isn’t more widely recognized by the public for the fine work they do. This release celebrates their 20th year of performing some of the most creative and straight ahead Blues out there.
Right off the bat we get a big ol’ helping of Ms. Inetta Visor throwing down some soulful and heartfelt vocals on ‘Granny Mae’. That alone is enuf for me, this lady’s voice is so rooted in soul it speaks volumes on it’s own, but for this track we added Giles Corey on guitar who along with regular billy Satterfield combine to push this song to it’s limits.
Since this is a anniversary release we have some great visitors to the studio. Former Heat member Ms. Deitra Farr is featured on three tracks and rocks out on ‘Look-A-Here, Baby’ accompanied by founder Pierre Lacocque blowing well versed harp and once again Mr. Sattefield working those six strings to glory. Ms. Farr throws down country blues with Pierre and early Heat member guitar virtuoso Billy Flynn on ‘What’s Happening To Me’ – time for some two-stepping and passing the flask around.
Straight ahead Chicago Blues pairs Ms. Visor with the legendary Carl Weathersby on ‘Mr. Mistreater’. This should serve as a lesson for all musicians and scholars as to what makes a shuffle a shuffle as Mr. Kenny Smith lays it down a tome while everyone else slides into place. Sweet!
Showing their depth of range and styles we get a special treat as Chubby Carrier (Ain’t No Party like a Chubby Party) hooks up with the band for ‘New Orleans Man’. Andrew ‘Blaze’ Thomas sits on the drums and Keith Blair on the guitar as the create a second line back beat all the while Chubby and Pierre work their syncopated magic together and separately to create on mean jambalaya for us all.
Often a favorite of mine are instrumentals – just cause it shows off the instrumentalists on their own. I was happily surprised when ‘Lemon Twist’ turned out to be one of those moments. A beautiful riding bass line by Mr. Joseph Veloz lays the bottom down so tight and solid that everyone else gets to ride those rails for free. Those ‘free-riders’ include Mr. Johnny Iguana on the B-3 and the aforementioned Mr. Giles Corey, working inside the shared space with him in a very neat fashion. Mr. Lacocque is certainly comfortable whether riding on the bus or conducting it, as far as his his harp playing goes. He has learned well from the studies of Big and Little Walter as well as both Sonny Boy Williamsons. He can melt and bend notes while soloing, display a deep rooted respect the silence between notes, and create a subtle background with out stepping on anyone’s toes – all within the framework of the said song.
Thank you, Mississippi Heat and delmark Records all for sharing this fine disc, I can only hope that it will capture new fans because it certainly resounds well with all of us on the bus witchas.
Please stop by their web site and get a dose of Mississippi Heat: http://www.mississippiheat.net/
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
photos: courtesy of artists
Where Blues Thrives