The Holmes Brothers pack CSPS!
By Mark Hilton
Photo by Charles Black
Repeated visits to Cedar Rapids have built The Holmes Brothers a dedicated fan base, one that turned out in droves for their show at CSPS Hall on Friday, August 15. The trio has performed in Cedar Rapids more than a half-dozen times and CSPS had to add extra chairs to accommodate their fans. And what a show they got. Over the course of two sets and about 90 minutes of music, brothers Wendell (guitar/piano/vocals) and Sherman (bass/vocals) Holmes and “brother-in-spirit” Popsy Dixon (drums/vocals) played through tracks from the various parts of their 35 year career in music.
The band took the stage and settled into a soul-infused, drawn-out version of “Amazing Grace.” For the uninitiated, this opening song gave good representation of The Holmes Brothers’ sound. Their meld of blues, R&B, soul, gospel, and a touch of country creates a sound that can be exuberant, head-nodding, and toe-tapping in some songs, and emotionally stirring and moving in others. “Drivin’ In The Drivin’ Rain” is a superb, recent cut about driving back to previous lover. Another recent track, “Stayed at the Party Too Long,” is a raucous, crowd-pleasing ode to their younger years.
Their traditional approach isn’t limited to their songwriting; their instrumentation is equally straightforward. Both Sherman and Wendell plug their guitars straight into their amplifiers. With no effects pedals to augment or accent their sound, it’s just three men, deeply connected to their instruments, playing with skill and soul. Wendell’s guitar smoking, blues-laden solos were a highlight throughout their set. The true highlight, however, is their voices. Each member shares in vocal duties, and the combination of Wendell’s more rugged vocals with his brother’s lower, fuller tone and Popsy’s bright falsetto is as pleasurable as harmonies get.After more than three decades in music you might think these three would be tired. Judging from their performance and the audience’s response on Friday, there are no indications that time and age have done anything but made them better!