Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Sherman Holmes Project - The Richmond Sessions


2017 –M.C. Records

By Phillip Smith; Aug 26, 2017


The Richmond Sessions is Sherman Holmes’ first recording since the 2015 passing of his Holmes Brothers partners: brother, Wendell Holmes, and Popsy Dixon.  This also stands out as Holmes’ solo debut in a career which has spanned over half a century.  Originally from Christchurch, Virginia, Holmes enlisted Jon Lohman, Virginia State Folklorist and Director of the Virginia Folklife Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to produce this outstanding record of Americana roots, blues, and gospel music.  The album offers a diverse blend of traditional and contemporary songs, performed in the classic spirit The Holmes Brothers are known for. 

Leading off the album is a feisty bluegrass performance of “I’ve Just Seen the Rock of Ages”.  Sharing the lead vocals with Sherman on this one is Almeta Ingram-Miller (Ingramettes).  Her powerful voice is sweetened by the accompaniment of five-time EBMA Banjo Player of the Year Sammy Shelor, and David Van Deventer on fiddle.  With a beautiful somber foundation created by Jacob Eller on upright bass, Holmes’ vocals ring with heartfelt emotion singing the spiritual “I Want Jesus”.

His cover of Vince Gill’s 1991 hit single “Liza Jane” is plumb terrific.  The swampy slide guitar and infectious slow-groove makes it a go-to track.  Holmes pays homage to fellow Virginians The Stanley Brother’s with an exquisite rendition of their now-classic 1959 dirge “White Dove”.  “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” is a tremendous song which Holmes fabulously delivers on a silver platter full of twang, topped with banjo and strings.   The lovely Joan Osborne makes a guest appearance on the marvelous and soulful “Dark End of the Street”, which was first recorded by James Carr in 1967.  The rich and lush sounds of the B-3, played by DJ Harrison makes a great backing for Holmes’ and Osborne’s vocal harmonies.  In a superb tight jam, Holmes and the band close the album with a stellar version of Ben Harper’s “Homeless Child”.  Like a game of three-card monte with instruments, they swap out harmonica, fiddle, and banjo picking to gospel-style vocals and a funky driving beat provided by Clarence Walters.

The Richmond Sessions is an excellent record, and I highly recommend it.
          

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