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Jimmy "Duck" Holmes - Back To Bentonia
There I was, thinking they didn't make that stuff no more, but the CD kept on spinning & my jaw kept on dropping. Just to hear the great Sam Carr pound his drums on three songs is a blessing in this metronome-obsessed soul-deprived world - but guess what, that's just the icing on the cake!
Bentonia, of course, was the home of the legendary Skip James. On the back cover of "Back To Bentonia", Robert Gordon writes that he's never been to Bentonia, "but whatever's in the water there, whatever's haunting the grounds at night, whatever gave the place its historical power, clearly lives on in these recordings." I've never been to Bentonia either, but 'haunting the grounds at night' certainly seems the appropriate phrase to describe this music: eerie Mississippi blues from the darkest, hottest corner of a man's soul.
The story goes that the Skip James tradition was passed on to Jimmy "Duck" Holmes by another Bentonia native, the late Jack Owens; indeed, Skip's "Devil Got My Woman" & "Hard Times Killing Floor" appear here as Owens tunes "I'd Rather Be the Devil" & "Hard Times". The Owens connection is further strengthened by the presence of his long-time harmonica playing partner Bud Spires on three songs. Mr. Spires also takes the vocals on the last track, his own "Your Buggy Don't Ride Like Mine".
There's one more cover among the 11 songs on the album: a Sam Carr-propelled version of Little Brother Montgomery's "Vicksburg Blues" that sounds like a cross between Muddy's "Louisiana Blues" & Wolf's "Forty Four". Actually, I seem to recall that at one time, this traditional Mississippi piano riff used to be known as both "Forty Four Blues" & "Vicksburg Blues", depending on who was claiming to have written it.
In a way, the same applies to the Holmes-penned title track that bears
more than a passing resemblance to Jazz Gillum's "Key To the Highway",
a tune that everybody from Little
Soundwise, the album comprises of two sessions. The collaborations with Sam Carr were recorded at Jimbo Mathus' studio in Clarksdale & sound like the best stuff Fat Possum was once known for. The acoustic songs were taped at Holmes' very own juke joint, the Blue Front Cafe that's been in the family since 1948. This the sound a blues fan would immediately think of when hearing the magic word 'Bentonia' - I, for one, am real glad it's still out there.