See That Light
Rick Holmstrom was born in Fairbanks but later relocated to Southern California. While attending college he joined a local blues band and sat in with Smokey Wilson and Junior Watson. Holmstrom was the guitarist in The William Clarke Band from 1985 to 1988. He joined up with another harp player, Johnny Dyer, and appears on two Black Top Records albums 1994’s “Listen Up”, and it’s 1995 follow-up “Shake It” on which he wrote or co-wrote eleven of the album’s fifteen tracks. Holmstrom joined Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers, replacing guitarist Alex Schultz, and produced 1997’s “Tough And Tender”.
Holmstrom released his solo debut, “Lookout!”, in 1996 also on Black Top. Between 2000 and 2006 he released three solo albums for Richard Rosenblatt’s Tone-Cool label, while also producing Rod Piazza and The Mighty Flyers’ 2002 album “Beyond The Source”. Holmstrom also recorded two solo albums for M.C. Records the last being 2012’s Cruel Sunrise”. Since 2007 Holmstrom has toured and recorded with Mavis Staples and appears on three of her albums including the 2010 Grammy winning “You Are Not Alone”, and 2017’s “If All I Was, Was Black”.
On “See That Light” guitarist/producer Holmstrom is joined by Mavis bandmates, bassist Gregory Boaz, and drummer/co-producer Steve Mugalian. Sidelined by the pandemic Holmstrom states “I did have a bunch of songs that were in various states of readiness, because we were working so much and traveling so much with Mavis”. The songs, all written by Holmstrom, while “looking out of airplane and bus windows”, “helped me regain purpose…I think we mostly did it for our sanity”. The album was recorded at the Sonic Boom Room in Venice, California; and features cover art by Rick’s daughter Ellie Holmstrom.
Holmstrom continues “the main thread, as I see it, is in…the stories”. The character sketches include “a person here who’s struggling; afraid to wake up to the truth; afraid they’re losing their shit; can’t find work; looking for love under a freeway overpass; feeling like a loser; and an asshole…and that the world is passing them by”. Every song is a highlight from the lead off “Take My Hand”; through “Losing My Shit”; “I’d Rather Be A Loser”; “I’m An Asshole”, and “Keep It Hid”. Holmstrom concludes “in the end, a four-year-old points her finger up at the night sky and asks “See That Light?”, it’s the child’s “Joyful Eye” that restores this guy’s hope”, and the song closes out this fine recording.
This album of blues-rock although “sparse, sounds and feels full”. Holmstrom and company will make you feel good.