The Sherman Holmes Project – The Richmond Sessions
Sherman Holmes’ solo debut The Richmond Sessions can’t help being a milestone: It’s the esteemed singer and bassist’s first recording since the passing of his brother and musical partners, Wendell Holmes and Popsy Dixon, both in 2015. But his solo debut, dedicated to the memories of Wendell and Popsy, is no somber affair. The blend of bluegrass, gritty rock & roll and joyful gospel will be familiar from Holmes Brothers days. And with some of his strongest vocals on record, the album shows Sherman is still an artist in his prime. Long time friend, Joan Osborne, duets with Holmes on the Dan Penn classic, “Dark End of the Street.” Other songs include The Band's "Don't Do It," Credence's "Green River" and Ben Harper's "Homeless Child."
1. Rock Of Ages - 2. Liza Jane 3. Don’t Do It - 4. I Want Jesus - 5. Breaking Up Somebody’s Home - 6. Dark End Of The Street - 7. Lonesome Pines - 8. Green River - 9. Wide River - 10. White Dove - 11. Homeless Child -
Sherman Holmes (vocals, bass, keyboards) , Rib Ickes (dobro) , Jared Pool (mandolin, Telecaster guitar) , Sammy Shelor (banjo) , Jacob Eller (upright bass) , David Van Deventer (fiddle) , Brandon Davis (guitar) , Jon Lohman (harmonica) , DJ Harrison (Hammond B3, drums on 6,8) , The Ingramettes: Almeta Ingram-Miller / Cheryl Marcia Maroney / Ann Cunningham (vocals) , Calvin ‘Kool Aid’ Curry (bass) , Stuart Hamlin (piano) , Randall Cort (drums on 1,5) , Clarence Carters (drums on 3,9,11) , Joan Osborne (vocals on 6)
The release of Sherman Holmes’ solo debut can’t help being a milestone: It’s the esteemed singer and bassists’ first recording since the passing of his brother and musical partners, Wendell Holmes and Popsy Dixon, both in 2015. But his solo debut, dedicated to the memories of Wendell and Popsy, is no somber affair. The blend of bluegrass, gritty rock & roll and joyful gospel will be familiar from Holmes Brothers days. And with some of his strongest vocals on record, the album shows Sherman is still an artist in his prime.
“Sounds pretty good for a 77-year-old, doesn’t it?” Holmes laughs. “I was overjoyed to do this, because I didn’t know how I was going to restart my career. We chose a good collection of songs that we wanted to do—We got some gospel in there, and some bluegrass. It’s a good mix of the Americana music, as I like to call it.”
Produced by Jon Lohman, Virginia State Folklorist and Director of the Virginia Folklife Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the album draws from Holmes’ longstanding Virginia roots. Its origins go back to 2014-15, when all three of the Holmes Brothers took part in a state-sponsored apprenticeship program, sharing their expertise with young musicians. Wendell and Popsy both took ill before it could be completed, but Sherman stayed on to complete his mentorship. “I think that really helped him emotionally to get through it,” Lohman recalls. Sherman performed with his apprentice, a young singer named Whitney Nelson at the finale show; he was then persuaded to take to the piano for a solo version of “I Want Jesus”—a gospel tune he’d sung in church as a child. “I was so moved by that, and went up to him right afterward and said ‘We should really do a Sherman Holmes record,” Lohman recalls.
Long beloved in the roots music world and beyond, the Holmes Brothers formed as a group in 1979, though the members had all been playing for decades by then; Sherman played behind the likes of Jerry Butler and John Lee Hooker in the early ‘60s. The Brothers didn’t make an album together until 1980’s In the Spirit, but word spread fast after that. Their fans were as diverse as Peter Gabriel (who not only signed them to his Real World label but had them back him on solo tracks) and Bill Clinton who had them play a Presidential gala. They racked up numerous Blues Music Awards and did further guest shots with Willie Nelson, Van Morrison and Odetta. After their last album together, 2014’s Brotherhood, they were honored with an NEA National Heritage Fellowship.
Producer Lohman made the new album a Virginia-style family affair, bringing in guests like the Ingramettes—Richmond’s “first family of gospel” of 50 years standing—and instrumentalists like dobro master Rob Ickes, twice nominated for Grammy Awards; and Sammy Shelor, multi-time IBMA banjoist of the year. Manning the B3 was Devon Harris (aka “DJ Harrison”), whose roots are in hip-hop and who’s sat in with ?uestlove and the Roots. “The Holmes Brothers were always a group that transgressed boundaries,” Lohman explains. “They weren’t concerned with genre, they loved it all. We wanted to honor that on this album. It’s not a blues album per se, or a bluegrass or a folk album. But to me that’s an advantage, and people who loved the Holmes Brothers should really get into it. It was important to me to give Sherman his due, and jump start a new chapter for him.”
Another notable guest is Joan Osborne, who duets with Holmes on the Dan Penn penned, James Carr classic, “Dark End of the Street.” As Holmes explains, “I knew her before she even started singing. She came to New York to study film and one night she walks past Dan Lynch’s, the club we always used to play—We kind of put that place on the map. She heard our voices outside and walked in; she was almost afraid to say hello because you know, we were a little rough. But we’ve been friends ever since.”
Some of the song choices may be more surprising, like Ben Harper’s “Homeless Child,” Marvin Gaye’s “Don’t Do It” (nodding to The Band’s famous cover) and “Liza Jane,” the Vince Gill hit that Sherman says he’s wanted to sing ever since he first heard it on the radio. He’s loved the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Green River” even longer—In fact it was one of the last songs the Holmes Brothers worked on together. Sherman’s version features a fresh arrangement, with Ickes’ dobro talking the famous guitar lick.
The gospel tracks also come from the heart, including a version of the childhood church favorite “I Want Jesus.” Especially notable is “Rock of Ages” which he performed with Rev. Almeta Ingram-Miller, who’s taken over for her late mother Maggie (the song’s author” as the leader of the Ingramettes. Explains Lohman, “What she sings in that song is what she experienced, with the loss of her mother. It was a really powerful moment.” Holmes’ assessment is more modest: “I had to sound like a real gospel singer on that one, and I never knew I could do that.”
With the album in the stores, Sherman plans to hit the road for his first tour as a solo artist. “I’m really looking forward to getting out there,” he says. “That’s my life, man.”
1. Americanbluesscene.com – JD Nash - July 7, 2017
There is one surviving member of the iconic trio, The Holmes Brothers. Founding member, singer and bassist, Sherman Holmes, now 77, releases his very first solo album July 21st on M.C. Records. Released under the moniker, The Sherman Holmes Project, the record is aptly titled, The Richmond Sessions.
This is also Holmes’ first recording since the passing of his brother and musical partners, Wendell Holmes and Popsy Dixon, both in 2015. But his solo debut, dedicated to their memories, is no somber affair. The blend of bluegrass, gritty rock & roll, and joyful gospel will be familiar from the Holmes Brothers days. With some of his strongest vocals on record, the album shows Sherman is still an artist in his prime.
“Sounds pretty good for a 77-year-old, doesn’t it?” Holmes laughs. “I was overjoyed to do this, because I didn’t know how I was going to restart my career. We chose a good collection of songs that we wanted to do. We got some gospel in there, and some bluegrass. It’s a good mix of the Americana music, as I like to call it.”
Make no mistake, the music of The Richmond Sessions took us to church. We’re not talking about one of those Megachurches often seen in evangelical broadcasts. This is tent revival, foot stomping, back to the roots of it, church. The very first track sets the tone. Filled with fiddle, banjo, dobro and lofting vocals, the traditional hymn, “Rock of Ages,” rocked our socks off. Other great, gospel classics include the Holmes favored, “I Want Jesus,” and “Wide River.”
Throughout the album, background/choir vocals are provided by the Legendary Ingramettes, Richmond’s “first family of gospel,” 50 years standing. Founded by Sister Maggie Ingram, the group is now led by her daughter, Rev. Almeta Ingram-Miller, and includes Cheryl Marcia Maroney, and Ann Cunningham. Rev. Almeta solos a verse in “Rock of Ages,” with her voice reaching the very heavens.
Producer Jon Lohman, who also plays harmonica, made the new album a Virginia-style family affair. Along with the Ingramettes, he brought in Rob Ickes (dobro), Sammy Shelor (banjo), Jared Pool (mandolin/guitar), Jacob Eller (upright bass), David Van Deventer (fiddle), Brandon Davis (guitar), Stuart Hamlin (piano), Calvin “Kool Aid” Curry (bass), and Devon “DJ Harrison” Harris (Hammond B-3). Drumming duties were shared by Harris, Randall Cort, and Clarence Walters, with Holmes providing vocals, bass and keyboards.
From the high-flying traditional gospel of “Rock of Ages,” we’re treated to a cover of the Vince Gill hit, “Liza Jane.” Holmes and company slow this one down, but keep all the bluegrass feel of the original. Speaking of bluegrass, Holmes covers the Stanley Brothers paradigm, “White Dove,” with all the heart a fellow Virginian can muster.
Things get a little more funky on Marvin Gaye’s “Don’t Do It” (nodding to The Band’s famous cover). Harris’ B-3 prowess, the Ingramettes choir-like backup vocals, and Lohman’s harmonica all stand out, but it’s Holmes’ sexy-as-I-wanna-be voice that really makes the song. Along with the years in his voice, we can also hear the mileage, and experience.
Another first-rate cover that came as a surprise was “Green River.” Penned by John Fogerty, and made a hit by Creedence Clearwater Revival, this was one of the last songs that the Holmes Brothers worked on as a group. This updated version features a fresh arrangement, with Ickes’ dobro taking the famous guitar lick. It’s still as swampy as it was meant to be, and in contention as one of our favorite tracks.
Notable guest Joan Osborne duets with Holmes on “Dark End of the Street.” As Holmes explains, “I knew her before she even started singing. She came to New York to study film and one night she walks past Dan Lynch’s, the club we always used to play. She heard our voices outside and walked in; she was almost afraid to say hello because you know, we were a little rough. But we’ve been friends ever since.”
A little gospel, a little bluegrass, a little rock & roll, and whole lot of soul make The Richmond Sessions a delightful must-have.
2. Bluesmagazine.nl - Peter Marinus – 2017.10.04
Wat kan muziek toch een feest zijn! Vooral als er een enorme portie passie bij aan te pas komt. En die is ruim vertegenwoordigd op dit album van The Sherman Holmes Project. Sherman Holmes was lid van The Holmes Brothers, een groep, die op magistrale wijze gospel, soul en blues combineerde.
Na het overlijden van Wendell Holmes en Popsy Dixon in 2015 viel die groep uiteen. De 77-jarige Sherman Holmes is echter solo door gegaan en “debuteert” met dit album. Een album waarop hij uiteraard weer de gospel combineert met soul, blues maar ook met bluegrass. En die mix werkt perfect. Alle bluegrass elementen worden op sublieme wijze geïntegreerd in de muziek van Holmes. En als die magistrale verweerde, maar toch nog krachtige stem van Holmes erbij komt waan je jezelf in de muzikale hemel. Het hele album is gevuld met covers waaraan Holmes, samen met producer Jon Lohman een zeer eigen draai heeft weten te geven.
Uiteraard wordt er geopend met een gospel traditional, Rock Of Ages. Hier in een bluesy bluegrass uitvoering gegoten met zeer soulvolle achtergrondzang van de Legendary Ingramettes, die op dit hele album een zeer grote indruk maken. De uiterst bluesy dobro mixt uitzonderlijk wel met de fiddle en mandoline uit de bluegrass. Het Vince Gill nummer Little Liza Jane krijgt een luie bluesy, haast swamprock-achtige behandeling met dit keer een bluesy mandoline. Het van Marvin Gaye bekende Don’t Do It krijgt een magistrale funky uitvoering met een zeer hoog soul gehalte.
In de gospel traditonal I Want Jesus eist de krachtige gospel achtergrondzang de hoofdrol op. De soul classic Breaking Up Somebody’s Home weet ook weer de bluegrass te mixen met funky soul. Een verbluffend mooie uitvoering.
Nog een soul klassieker, Dark End Of The Street, bekend van James Carr. Ik had nooit gedacht dat het origineel van James Carr geëvenaard kon worden maar deze breekbare versie is echt ontroerend mooi. Mede door de gastrol van Joan Osborne.
In de cover van Jim Louderdale’s Lonesome Pines slaat de muzikale meter door naar de country & western. Het nummer past echter qua intensiteit prima bij de andere nummers. Green River, van Creedence Clearwater Revival, krijgt een warme blues behandeling met de soepel glijdende dobro en de soulstrot van Holmes in de hoofdrol.
Wat zit er een enorme power en een enorme hoeveelheid soul in de gospeltraditonal Wide River! De zang van zowel Holmes als zijn achtergrondzangeressen is zeer intens. Ook de cover van het Stanley Brothers nummer White Dove bewijst dat country/bluegrass en soul/gospel prima samen gaan.
Tot slot krjgt Ben Harper’s Homeless Child een gepassioneerde blues behandeling waarin nogmaals wordt bewezen dat de bluegrass instrumentatie prima in de soul en gospel van Sherman Holmes passen.
Er is echt geen zwak moment op dit album te vinden. Liefhebbers van intense soul en gospel weten wat ze te doen staat…..
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