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June 2002

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The Holmes Brothers
Real World

Holmes Brothers - Jubilation The Holmes Brothers shocked the world with their release, Speaking In Tongues, which was near the top of many blues fans' Top 10 list for 2001 (including most of the Blues Bytes staff). Latecomers to the band may not have realized that this was their second gospel effort. Although the band has always included a few gospel numbers on each of their albums, their first completely gospel effort, Jubilation (Real World), was released in 1992 as part of a project by Peter Gabriel. 

In 1991, Gabriel put together a week of World Music festivals in England, which culminated in a series of albums (called WOMAD) and included the Holmes Brothers as part of the project, deciding to record them in a gospel setting. 

Jubilation is a far more traditional set than Speaking In Tongues, with more traditional songs that are much closer to the band's original roots. But the Holmes Brothers are anything but traditional in their interpretations. Another difference is the presence of pedal steel guitarist extraordinaire Gib Wharton (who played on three Holmes' CDs in the early 90s). Wharton's inventive licks brought a whole new dimension to the band, adding a country flavor to their already powerful mix of blues, gospel, rock, and soul. 

The entire band was in great form for the disc, with Wendell Holmes's distinctive guitar and gravelly vocals, Sherman Holmes' rock-steady bass, and Popsy Dixon's steady backbeat and awe-inspiring vocals. Dixon is at his best on the swinging "I've Had My Chance," as his voice soars higher and higher. When I first heard this song in '92, I broke out in goose bumps. 

As would be expected on a project like this, other musicians from other countries provide solid contributions, such as Chinese musician Guo Yue, whose haunting flute adds a whole different texture to Sherman's heartfelt "A Brother's Prayer," and a trio of East African guitarists who get busy with Wharton on "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." Also, there are a number of vocalists from several countries who back the brothers on "All Night, All Day." 

Despite the presence of these musicians from other countries familiar with other music styles, the whole effort blends together almost seamlessly. Though it's not as consistently exciting as their most recent effort, Jubilation is nonetheless a satisfying release. If you liked Speaking In Tongues, you will certainly enjoy this one.  

--- Graham Clarke

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