How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
To these ears, Rick "L.A. Holmes" Holmstrom's Lookout! was one of the best blues albums of the '90s. I marked this follow-up on my calendar the moment I heard about it. Happy to report the Mighty Flyers guitarist has done it again, but with a twist: "Holmes" sings on this one and he's pretty damn good!
Holmstrom and 17 stellar musicians radiate plenty of energy on Gonna Get Wild, a collection of 13 originals that are as rowdy as the finest rockabilly, but with chops galore.
Holmstrom is a breath of fresh air in the blues guitar arena. Unlike those Stevie Ray wannabes, Holmstrom reaches back to T-Bone Walker and Pee Wee Crayton for inspiration. The guitarman favors minimal amplification and different low-tech amp and microphone effects to create certain moods. The result is raw, pleasingly retro and dare I say it innovative.
It doesn't hurt that Holmstrom plays the hell out of a guitar, or that he's backed by some of the West Coast's finest blues players. Holmstrom has an uncanny sense of rhythm, and his playing is laden with subtle eccentricities that accrue to a sound all his own. He's not a great vocalist, but he's better than average.
Contributors include fellow Mighty Flyers Rod Piazza (harmonica), Honey Piazza (piano), Bill Stuve (bass) and Steve Mugalian (drums), plus past Holmstrom cronies Junior Watson (guitar), Johnny Dyer (harp) and "Juke" Logan (organ).
Gonna Get Wild is aptly titled. This is rollicking, slap-snappy music with enough instrumental flair to please most jazz fans, not to mention us lowly bloozers. If the title track doesn't start your motor, see a doctor. Great growly guitar sound on this one. "Have You Seen My Girl" is a Cajun shuffle thing with punchy horns and a Chuck Berry-ish guitar interlude. Fueled by barrelhouse piano and fiery guitar, "I Hate to See You Cry" jumps like a pogo stick. The five instrumental tracks are terrific, too, especially the Latin-jazzy "Phlazzbo," the Cuban-tinged "Uno Mas" and a surprise untitled 13th track that calls to mind a Tiny Grimes confection.
Gonna Get Wild epitomizes West Coast blues. It's hot, vivacious, swingin', rockin' jumpin', fabuliscious stuff. It hits the record stores on March 21, 2000, so synchronize your swatches.