State Of Grace
On their first CD in three years, New York Cityís
Holmes Brothers sound
similar in style, format, and content to their prior Alligator release,
Simple Truths. This is due, in part, to Craig Streetís encore role as
producer. Other similarities include the same rough and gritty sound (on
some songs) as well as delving into the songbook of Hank Williams.
However, this time an extra helping of Americana is thrown into the mix.
As well, there is a country feel in the music due to four covers by
country & western songwriters.
Youíll hear rootsy sounds, bluesy shuffles, redemptive fulfilling
lullabies, and acoustic stomps. Topics addressed via intense lyrics
include how couples can drift apart after spending many years together
and being haunted by past loves. The Brothers share lead vocal duties
throughout the 55-minute disc. As with their previous releases, the
vocal harmonies are touching and renewing. Sherman Holmes (bass) has a
deep and firm baritone voice. Wendell Holmes (guitar) has a surly voice,
but it is warm and friendly. For me, Popsy Dixon (drums) has the best
vocals. They tremble like a stone pillar rocked by a gospel choir on
"Three Gray Walls." Later, they strike your conscience on
"Smiling Face Hiding A Weeping Heart" is a would have, should have, could
have, tale of woe about a bridge that all couples must cross sooner or
later. On "Close The Door," the vocals harmonize as much as the acoustic
strings. Itís an amazing combination of the animate and inanimate being
in accord. With Glenn Patschaís accordion and Larry Campbellís fiddle,
Creedance Clearwater Revivalís classic, "Bad Moon Rising," is transformed
into a foot-pounding piece of Americana. Patscha also contributes
inspiring piano, organ, guitar, and songwriting. He is the secret
ingredient behind the album. The Canadian-born artist is a member of
Ollabelle Ė other members of the band contribute backing vocals on the
album Ė and has long been active in the New Orleans music scene.
The Holmeses have been preaching about
"Peace, Love, and Understanding" for
years. Their completely re-arranged version of the Nick Lowe-written
Elvis Costello hit is calm, and it could motivate world leaders into
action. Another completely reworked hit is Cheap Trickís "I Want You To
Want Me." The rhythm has been changed to be deeply romantic, respectful,
and loving. Catherine Russell Ė who has previously recorded with the
group Ė adds fiery backing vocals to "Gasoline Drawers." On "I Canít Help
It If Iím Still In Love With You," Rosanne Cash and Wendell perform a
lovely vocal duet. Equally as pleasant is Campbellís mandolin. The
bandís good friend Joan Osborne proves to be an adept lead vocalist on
"Those Memories Of You." Likewise, Levon Helm shows his vocals are still
strong on "Iíve Just Seen The Rock Of Ages."
State Of Grace once again proves The Holmes Brothers to be an American
institution. The easily-likable songs and richly-textured vocal
harmonies will appeal to fans of many musical styles. This album should
show up in the number one spot on several charts.
--- Tim Holek