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Rick Holmstrom - Hydraulic Groove

Copyright 2002 Tone-Cool Records

Rick Holmstrom's third solo album. Produced by Rob Schnapf.

Track Listing:

  1. These Roads
  2. Bobo the Hobo
  3. Last to Know
  4. Pee Wee's Nightmare
  5. Shake It, Part 2
  6. My Maria
  7. Back It Up
  8. Gravy
  9. Harlan Shuffle
  10. Tell Me
  11. I'm Gone
Bonus Tracks!:
  1. Roll Tape (with John Medeski)
  2. Shake It, Part 2 (DJ Logic Remix)
  3. Knock Yourself Out (Genome Remix)
  4. Hamp's Hump (with John Medeski)

CD Review:

First off, this CD is not for everyone. If you're a Blues purist at heart, this CD may frighten you with some strong remixing, overlaying, electronic, and hip-hop tones. It's a robust album in every sense of the word. It has 15 tracks, over an hour of music, and a diverse sampling of guest musicians and DJs.

The album starts off innocently with "These Roads," "Bobo the Hobo," and "Last to Know." Holmstrom displays some strong blues guitar, and there are overlays of piano, Wurlitzer, and organ on all three by Genome. Blues fans will like the way this album starts off. Holmstrom's vocals on "Last to Know" stand out, and complement his fantastic guitar work.

And then you realize this isn't old-school blues anymore. Holmstrom has really revolutionized the blues sound and brought it to a whole new crowd who will appreciate the hard blues, and subtle electronic additions and samples. It's definitely not hard hitting electronic, but it melts right into the funky blues like North Mississippi All-stars, and R. L. Burnside have done before. Holmstrom brings a whole new feel to the electronic/blues fusion.

The fourth track departs sharply from the traditional, production-free Blues. "Pee Wee's Nightmare" has a throbbing feel, with Blues riffs underneath, and sublime electronic loops and samples that make it really churn. The hypnotic feel doesn't end there. After the fourth track fades out, "Shake It, Part 2" kicks in with samples of Rufus Thomas from the W.C. Handy Awards. The song builds on a repetitive combination of Blues guitar licks, and adds electronic samples and Holmstrom's intense instrumentals. It really gets funky, and it seems to fit any mood and ambiance. The track returns again at the end of the CD, as DJ Logic remixes the track and adds a whole new aspect of electronic/blues style to an already solid track.

The sixth track, "My Maria," is a more of a vocal track for Holmstrom. He showcases his superb Blues vocal abilities, and lays in slick guitar licks to complement the bass-loop and organs Genome slips in. The song has a driving beat and signature blues guitar.

After that, the CD moves back to the fusion and eccentricity that characterizes the album as a whole. "Back it Up" lays out some frantic horn blasts, an electronically altered beat, and moving bass. Holmstrom answers the horns with killer Blues licks, and the song moves. Subtle electronic samples are all over and add excellent texture to the track. A smoother, spacier feel is developed on "Gravy," the eighth track, although Holmstrom's guitar has a different sound that would be considered typical with more random, disorganized blasts.

The ninth and tenth tracks, "Harlan Shuffle" and "Tell Me," take a low-key, slowly progressing Blues feel and add in clever organ and electronic samples that keep the listener in tune with the subtleties of the two tracks. Track 11, "I'm Gone" winds down with 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. John Medeski, from Medeski, Martin, and Wood, jumps on board to play organ on two of the other three tracks: "Roll Tape" and "Hamps's Hump." These tracks are two of my favorite; I'm a big Medeski fan. They are dominated in parts by the amazing organ work Medeski infuses into the tracks, but the combination of Medeski and Holmstrom is just incredible. If you're a blues fan, or if you're a Medeski, Martin, and Wood fan, you'll love these tracks. They have a definite jazz sound, and Ronald Dziubla lays out some saxophone that reminded me of Frank Zappa.

Track 14, "Knock Yourself Out (Genome Remix)" (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.

Overall, Rick Holmstrom's experiment with jazz/blue/electronic/jam fusion is one of my favorite CDs to date. It may be my musical tastes that makes this the case (I like all the genres he throws together), but I think this CD has a lot of juice, and something to offer most serious listeners. It's an excellently balanced conglomerate of styles that hits the mark. Like I said before, if you're a true Blues purist, you may disdain the produced qualities of this album. It's not just about the Blues here, but they're a big part of why it's cool...


  • Hydraulic Groove CD Liner Notes
  • Everything else is my opinion, and should be taken with a grain of salt :).

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