The Holmes Brothers,
(Rounder, 2002)

This is a collector's item for anyone remotely interested in blues or gospel music at its best. This nicely packaged CD with a very informative booklet brings together 17 tracks re-mastered from earlier recordings.

This is a CD that combines what I would term "smoke and strong whiskey" songs with gospel favourites alongside some surprises. The R&B tracks evoke the dark cellar clubs and fun nights when singers sang for love of the music rather than stardom or financial reward -- not that money was neglected, we all need to eat.

Songs like "Promised Land" transport sentiments from church into upbeat treatments that belong more in the club than the chapel -- but if people listen, the message reaches a wider audience.

Some tracks are so soulful that you need a dark room and the right mood to get the full power. These are songs of feeling that cannot be rushed and five or six minutes is time well invested to listen carefully to tracks like "When Something is Wrong with My Baby" and "Don't Spare Your Sword." "Fannie Mae" is an upbeat, toe-tapping track that could grace a swing album by Glenn Miller.

A truly beautiful gospel track is "I Surrender All," with its piano and snare drum backing. It is a combination of vocals, music and sentiment at a slow pace that raises hairs on the back of your neck. "Please Don't Hurt Me" brings a similar feeling to a love song. "Train Song" gets a fantastic treatment, as we really believe the vocalist as he relates his tale.

The gospel track "Walk in the Light" is one of the most uplifting tunes I have heard in some time. The falsetto sound is eerie.

As a person who first heard "There Goes My Everything" sung by Tom Jones, I was "gob smacked" (as we say in Ireland) to hear the fantastic version on this CD. Every second of this 5:54 track is pure gold as the singers pour more feeling and soul into this sad love song than a thousand cover versions.

The booklet gives a comprehensive short biography of the group plus a discography. Unfortunately, it does not include lyrics.

The Holmes Brothers are a phenomenon and should not be missed by anyone who wants their music and lyrics delivered by those who sound as if they mean every syllable.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 2 November 2002

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