Review: Sherman Holmes stays true to Holmes Bros. traditions
Sherman Holmes, “The Sherman Holmes Project: The Richmond Sessions” (M.C. Records)
“The Richmond Sessions” is the debut album by Sherman Holmes, but the 77-year-old singer and bassist is no neophyte.
The Holmes Brothers were one of the all-time great American bands, alternating between gospel, R&B, soul and blues while reimagining tunes from Tom Waits, The O’Jays, and even Cheap Trick and Bob Marley as radically and triumphantly as Joe Cocker’s version of “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
Drummer Popsy Dixon and guitarist Wendell Holmes passed away in 2015 and Sherman Holmes, who backed legends like John Lee Hooker before the trio formed in 1979, returns to his family and band’s Virginia roots for “The Richmond Sessions.”
Stirring harmonies were a Holmes Brothers trademark and the Ingramettes, also from the state for lovers, lay a granite foundation for Holmes on a pair of fellow Virginian Ralph Stanley’s bluegrass classics — “I’ve Just Seen the Rock of Ages” and “White Dove” — as well as Ben Harper’s “Homeless Child,” also covered by The Holmes Bros. in 2001.
Other great tracks include a dobro-in-the-swamp take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Green River,” Vince Gill’s “Liza Jane” and “I Want Jesus to Walk With Me.”
Erstwhile Holmes Bros. producer Joan Osborne is Sherman’s cheating partner on “The Dark End of the Street” and Sherman stays on theme with Ann Peebles’ “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home,” as if Virginia is really for adulterers.
“The Richmond Sessions” is Sherman’s Southern-style, stirring Irish wake for departed brother Wendell and bandmate Popsy. Think of them fondly as you clap your hands and stomp your feet.