Despite the best efforts of blues purists (who sometimes tend to view musical evolution as a fate worse than death), the blues continues to shift its sonic shape. As with all other American musical art forms, it really doesn’t have much choice. Blues has achieved such a status and appeal (well-deserved, hard-fought, well-earned) that it continually attracts a wide variety of musicians desiring to interpret the music in their own way. The natural result of this is a musical cross-pollination that has resulted in such recognizable subgenres as jazz-style blues, blues rock, blues funk, and the origin of it all, Delta blues.
All of this is to preface that Rick Holmstrom’s Hydraulic Groove is another one of those inevitable blues albums that will more than likely upset some in the purist community who won’t be able to tolerate the marriage of blues with such “unworthy” musical elements as hip hop and the sampling that comes with it. As for the elements of rockabilly thrown in, some listeners may simply spontaneously combust upon aural contact.
What Rick Holmstrom has created here is truly an experimental blues stew. It may not be to everyone’s taste and it may not always quite work (although it most often does), but it has the ingredients of something really good. More importantly, the man has purposely driven right over the “safe blues” warning signs posted alongside the road, and for that he deserves a commendation. The only thing worse than forgetting the history of the blues is blocking it off from what comes next.
E-mail Keith Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org.