The Holmes Brothers
Speaking In Tongues
The Holmes Brothers had a Gospel project on the Real World label some several years ago (Jubilation) that truly introduced the group, but this latest from the soul/blues/roots/and more trio comes from the equally indie Alligator Music/Stony Plains Records group.Producer: Joan Osborne
album release date: March, 2001
With producer Joan Osborne at the helm, the Harlem-based Holmes Brothers (Wendell Holmes, Sherman Holmes, Popsy Dixon) spin out thirteen tracks of in-your-face originality on all levels.
Hard-edged instrumentation courtesy the three, consists of spikey guitar and bass plus fearless drums, with added organ, piano and supplementary percussion from an able session crew. Vocally, itís lots of Wendellís hard-pelting leads, that in combo with smoother backing vocals (both from the other two in the group and from The Precious Three Osborne, Maydie Miles and Catherine Russell), is akin to sandpaper on feathery silk.
Original songs such as the title track ("Speaking in Tongues") and "Jesus Is The Way" are guitar-riff-laden joys, with lots of great vocal hooks and all-out soaring vocals from everyone. "New Jerusalem" impacts with a rhythmic ride from bar one, and its descriptive take on the glory of seeing our Saviour in heaven.
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Elsewhere, covers of standbys and classics such as "Love Train" and Bob Dylanís "Man of Peace" get really spectacular as a thickly woven mat of vocal and instrumental lines gets meshed as a base, with solo vocal lines bobbing up and down on the whole. On "Love Train" in particular, Popsy Dixonís distinctively edgy but smoothly-driven falsetto makes a wonderful splash.
Dixonís work on the Sister Rosetta Tharpeís "Canít No Grave Hold My Body Down" is also notable for its liberal use of fast-moving acoustic funk and keyboard percussion that paints a picture in sound what Dixon draws with his lyrics.
In a sea of studio Gospel recordings that frequently fail to capture what you know is so much better live, Speaking In Tongues has so much energy and verve recorded on it that you donít really think on those lines.
And if you do, you realize how very incredible The Holmes Brothers must be in live session.
Alligator Music / Stony Plains Records
reviewed by Stan North ó
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