The Holmes Brothers
Towne Crier Café, February 6, 2004:
We drive through and incredible rain storm, over 2 hours, to reach the Towne Crier Café in Pawling, New York. We have come here to enjoy The Holmes Brothers and help Betty, Kathy’s lifelong friend, celebrate her husband Joe’s 47th birthday. We are very early and begin the celebration with Don who’s coincidently from Ringwood, New Jersey. Ringwood is right next door to Oakland, where we live. We come the farthest and we are here first. Tonight’s surprise birthday party celebration is for about twenty-five of Betty & Joe’s closest friends.
At 7:45 P.M. Betty, Joe, Jody and Andy arrive. Just a few minutes after that The Holmes Brothers arrive and unload their equipment to the stage, from an access door immediately behind us. We all enjoy a sumptuous dinner. I have an enticing mixed green salad and deliciously grilled Tilapia fish entrée, with couscous and fresh greens julienne. The mood is very upbeat despite the cold, rainy, wintry weather.
The Holmes Brothers start at 8:07 P.M. The opening number is, “Big Boss Man.” Their delivery is upbeat, spirited, strong and commanding and is a clear barometer of what’s in store for tonight’s performance. The Holmes Brothers are a trio: Wendell Holmes on electric guitar, Sherman Holmes on bass and Popsy Dixon on the drums. They are all accomplished and seasoned singers. The next composition is, “We Meet, We Part, We Remember,” from their latest CD, Simple Truths. This song has tremendous vocal harmonies and evokes strong, passionate emotion. The melody is heart wrenching and deeply sincere, while the tempo is bright and succinct. There is nothing quite like the special chemistry of family, to make vocal harmonies distinct and completely blended.
The next tune, “We’re Movin’ On,” is funky, spirited and tight with excellent harmonies. The vocal refrain, “hi, hi, hi and we’re movin’ on,” is together and inspiring. Wendell’s rhythm guitar is funky and solid with nice soft-touch lead guitar melodies. Popsy takes an excellent drum solo and is poppin’ it! The next song, “Amazing Grace,” features Popsy on lead vocals. Popsy’s voice features sweet and silky falsetto, with great vibrato control and rich tone. The song is slow and emphatic, soulful and emotional. Wendell’s guitar solo creatively utilizes volume swells and a heavenly delicate touch.
“Speaking In Tongues” is a hot rockin’ number in a ‘fat’ 4/4 tempo. There is a nice melodic change and inventive three part harmonies, featuring an excellent high falsetto from Popsy. Wendell takes a smokin’ lead guitar break. “Everything Is Free” again features Popsy on lead vocals. The song is slow and sincere. Popsy’s vocal is deep and rich with strong vibrato. Sherman’s bass is excellent all night, but especially melodically meaningful here. The lyrical content is prophetic and clear. The harmonic blend is something only genealogy and longevity can cultivate.
“May The Circle Be Unbroken” is upbeat and hot. This gospel tune provokes spontaneous dancing. The spirits have risen. The Holmes Brothers play a country tune from Virginia next. The tempo is a ‘giddy-up’ two-step with Popsy proudly driving this musical bus. Yee-ha! Popsy is a lefty drummer who plays strong and proud all night.
The Holmes Brothers graciously sing happy birthday to Joe Marotta who is 47. I am surprised the band would accommodate us so enthusiastically, but it clearly shows the genuine good spiritedness of this group. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” features gorgeous three part harmonies. Popsy tightly executes a double-time right hand on his trusty hi-hat. Wendell’s excellent lead guitar showcases tasteful hammering and well timed volume swells for a superior dynamic expression. “Stop What Your Doin’ To Me” is a strong shuffle tempo. Sherman’s booming bass is solid and tight, supporting an excellent groove.
A blues number, “Got The Blues All In My Head,” brings it all back home. There is Sherman strong on the bass and Wendell playing outstanding lead guitar; illustrating an experienced touch and sensitivity. An inspired patron yells, “Don’t hurt me now!” This is possibly the most outstanding lead guitar of the evening and Sherman’s vocal is tremendous. “Oakie From Miskokie” is an excellent country change and executed magnificently. The guitar is clean and slick
The next song is initially unrecognizable. I listen and listen to what is one of the most creatively unusual arrangements of a Beatles’ tune I have ever heard. The song is, “And I Love Her.” The presentation is slow, sultry, sexy and totally different in musical interpretation from the original. Amazing!
The band really swings on, “Fanny Mae.” This shuffle is solid and forceful. “That’s Where It’s At” is a slow blues song. The execution is superior and the harmonies are perfect; culminating in a very unique harmonic voicing to finish up a tremendous musical effort. The last song is a boogie-woogie style humdinger. This is boogie gospel and played tight and steady. The vocal refrain, “had a good time tonight,” quite accurately says it all!
The Holmes Brothers put on a fantastic show tonight. They warm up the entire audience on this cold and wintry night in February. The Holmes Brother spontaneous charisma, experienced musicianship, and instinctively intuitive vocal harmonies are a shining testimony to their long time together, creating a cohesive presentation as one sound. Excellent!
Betty’s surprise birthday party at the Towne Crier Café was a smashing success. Our large party was provided with excellent music, fine food and spirits, and aptly enabled by the warm ambience of the venue and management’s gracious hospitality. I hope to return soon to the Towne Crier Café in Pawling, New York, to enjoy another night of music, fun and great cuisine. Thank you Betty, for a job well done. Thank you Holmes Brothers and thank you Towne Crier Café.
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