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January 1997

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The Holmes Brothers
In The Spirit
Rounder

Since its release in 1990, I've listened to The Holmes Brothers' In The Spirit more than any other album in my collection. I still fondly remember the evening that I first put it in my CD player. By the time the last cut, gospel stomper "Up Above My Head," was through I was dancing around the room like a redeemed sinner.

The Holmes Brothers (guitarist Wendall Holmes, bassist Sherman Holmes and drummer Popsy Dixon) were known primarily around their home base of New York City. It took 20 years of gigs around the Big Apple before they came to the attention of Rounder Records. Since that time they've toured the U.S. and the world many times, have released four more albums, and become one of the hottest acts on the blues circuit.

In The Spirit was described as the meeting of James Brown, Jimmy Reed, and The Mighty Clouds Of Joy. Indeed, it's always been extremely difficult to categorize The Holmes Brothers. What other blues band would dare to tour and record with a pedal steel player?

You'll truly be "in the spirit" when listening to this disk, as some of the better cuts are the stirring gospel numbers "None But The Righteous" and "Up Above My Head." Their contrasting voices harmonize into a perfect mix. And the Brothers can also get down on straight downhome blues, as heard on the Jimmy Reed song "Baby, What You Want Me To Do" and the ribald "Squeal Like An Eel."

But nothing moves me more than hearing Popsy Dixon's wonderful vocals on their covers of "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" and "Going Down Slow." The man can go from a deep growl to a high falsetto in just a few notes. It's enough to send shivers up and down your spine!

If you missed this CD the first time around, don't hesitate to add it to your collection right now.

- Bill Mitchell

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