Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Holmes Brothers – Simple Truths (Alligator, 2004)

The Holmes Brothers keep on trucking with their mix of rhythm and blues, soul, blues and gospel. This is their second album for the Alligator label but their “genuine houserocking music” esthetic doesn’t seem to have affected the band. Their previous album, Speaking in Tongues was a breakthrough for the band and a glorious success so this album was highly anticipated.

What makes the Holmes Brothers so interesting is that while they don’t write many of their own songs, they have such a fascinating way of interpreting other people’s songs. Here, they give a wonderful stripped down reading of Bob Marley’s “Concrete Jungle” which really gets to the heart of the song and its message. Same thing with Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” which shows off the Brothers amazing vocal harmonies. A touch less successful is the gospel rave up treatment given to the modern rock tune “Shine.” In a sense, it should fit right into the band’s gospel heritage, but the arrangement of the song just doesn’t click.

But really, that’s the only thing that could be considered a mis-step on this record. This band has locked onto a foolproof formula where they can cover everything from country, Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” to the contemporary folk of Gillian Welch’s “Everything is Free” to the straight-ahead blues of the standard “Big Boss Man.”

This is just a rock solid disc of roots music and is recommended to anyone who appreciates honest music, shorn of all the BS.

Rating: 8

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