Rick Holmstrom

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The veteran blues and gospel guitarist wanted to make an album “for good times; barbecues, car rides, pajama parties.” In doing so, he reinforces that good-time music and serious musicianship are not mutually exclusive.

Since 2007, Holmstrom has led Mavis Staples’ band (she even calls him “Pops, Jr.”), but he cut his teeth in L.A. blues clubs, backing and producing Johnny Dyer, Rod Piazza, and others. Here, he revisits the all-instrumental format of his 1997 solo debut, LookOut.

The opener, “Looky Here,” is all groove, but hookier tunes follow, like “Robyn’s Romp,” in a “Gatemouth” Brown vein. “All About My Girls” pays homage to organ-trio great Jimmy McGriff, and there are nods to Chuck Berry and early-’60s Freddie King. Rick mines a slicing, out-of-phase tone from his ’55 Les Paul Special on the latter, while a ’53 Telecaster is the axe of choice for most of the rest.

“Taghazout” features heavy tremolo in a jungle mood, while “G Like Junior” is a flattering jump-blues tribute to West Coast legend Junior Watson. Holmstrom is such a tasteful tone master, by the end of the disc you won’t even notice the absence of vocals.

This article originally appeared in VG’s June 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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