Rick Holmstrom: Cruel Sunrise (M.C. 0070; 50:53 ****)
With his first headlining album since 2007, Rick Holmstrom - also Mavis Staples' bandleader - constructs an exemplary showcase for his formerly under appreciated charisma. The fetching tones of Holmstrom's vocals combine with the warm atmospherics of the rhythm section to lure us into emotionally involving original tunes that have his guitar cutting as sharply as the thorns of a honey tree locust. Staples is his fellow supplicant on "Lord Please." The Deluxe Edition (M.C. 0071; 50:53/43:12 ****) adds a dozen instrumental tracks, some with bassist Jeff Turmes on saxophone.
Downbeat January 2013