Reviews

Rick Holmstrom’s See That Light


By Brian Rock

Rick Holmstrom finds glimmers of hope in these dark days on See That Light. The guitarist and bandleader for Mavis Staples plumbs the depths of his own Covid/Lockdown-induced funk to produce a dozen Blues tinted musical pearls. One year ago, Holmstrom was poised for a banner touring year, sharing bills worldwide with artists like Chris Stapleton, Patty Griffin and Norah Jones. Then… nothing. Covid stole a year’s worth of bookings and income in the blink of an eye. After internally wrestling with the seeming unfairness of the situation and moving through the five stages of grief, Holmstrom finally externalized his feelings into song. The result is twelve insightful explorations of confusion, grief, worry, hope and eventually joy.

The album opens with the Southern Culture On The Skids inspired, “Take My Hand.” The funky, swampy, blues guitar licks and syncopated cowbell are as greasy and tasty as Southern fried chicken. Singing, “Everybody’s staring at a screen, but we can’t see what’s right in front of us;” Holmstrom urges people to unplug from their devices and practice being human for a little while. There is a healing power in human interactions, and especially in human touch. And when the problems of eight billion people begin to overwhelm us, sometimes the best medicine is to just reach out and hold a single hand.

“Look Me In The Eye,” continues musically and thematically in the same vein. With those irresistible Southern Culture On The Skids grooves, and a touch of Rockabilly twang, Holmstrom sings, “Look me in the eye and bring me back to the way it was before I lost my mind.” Again, we’re shown how the healing power of human interaction can help break through the madness of our times.

But these first two songs are really the end of the story. There’s already a sense of optimism in the tone of these songs. At the beginning of Holmstrom’s journey there was only despair. That depth of darkness is conveyed in the psychedelic Blues of “Losing My Sh*t.” As the title implies, he’s a man on the brink. He gropes for a way out of the darkness in the Country tinged, Luke Winslow King style Blues of “Lonesome Sound.” Struggling ever forward, he wrestles with his own negative emotions on the Lyle Lovett style Blues of “Keep It Hid.” Confronting his own dark side, he realizes his past strategy of keeping feelings bottled up just won’t work any longer. On “I’d Rather Be A Loser,” he channels his inner Stevie Ray Vaughn to declare that he’d rather be a loser and be free to do his own thing, than to stand there and be someone else’s fool. The final stage of his quest comes at the hand of his young daughter. Incorporating the soul blues of Solomon Burke on “Joyful Eye,” Holmstrom sings, “She pulled me out into the night. ‘See that light? What’s its name and how do you know?’” Coming full circle, the power of human interaction and human touch helps Holmstrom see the light in the darkness.

With a barrel full of blues styles, Rick Holmstrom gives voice to the struggles we all face. Not shying away from hard truths, he carves out a moving and musical path that allows us to navigate the darkness until we “See That Light.”

rickholmstrom.com  |  buy  |  fb

Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

Comments are closed.