Jimmy “Duck” Holmes

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes
Back To Bentonia

Broke & Hungry Records

By Art Tipaldi
May 2007

Imagine traveling the dusty, back roads of the Mississippi delta. You’re listening to a scratchy cassette tape of the delta blues of Charley Patton or Robert Johnson. You’re in Bentonia, the southern most tip of the delta - and home to the legendary Skip James and his haunting, minor tuned, “Devil Got My Woman” blues guitar.

You stop at the Blue Front Cafe for a Coke. As you shake the dust off your throat, you hear a uniquely enigmatical blues guitar from a time long forgotten. It’s Skip James coming from the porch. You draw up a stool and sit as local guitarist Jimmy “Duck” Holmes plays the stark blues he’s been asked to safeguard. It’s a uniquely local, traditional blues that originally developed with Skip James in the 1920s, and was carried forward by the late Jack Owens.

Today this music is in the capable hands of Holmes, who, beginning in the 1970s, was personally tutored in his Bentonia home by Owens. Recorded live at the Blue Front Cafe, a local Bentonia juke joint owned by Holmes’ parents since 1948, this disc is an accurate record of the blues history of the region.

Holmes’ evocative vocals and compelling guitar work, coupled with the acoustic harmonica of Owens’ long time partner, Bud Spires, breathes fresh air into Owens’ reworks of Skip James classics such as “Devil Got My Woman,” and “Hard Times.”  Halfway through these songs, the music becomes a Dick Waterman, black-and-white photo. Spires also lends his front porch, country harp to Holmes’ unbending “Count The Days I’m Gone.”

Holmes’ “Hurry, Hurry, Hurry” exhibits his understanding of James’ and Owens’ loping style. Like the finest early blues, there is a sullen, sepia coloring to the canvasses Holmes paints on.

“Mr. Taxi Driver” comes shaded with the hopelessness of backbreaking delta days. “Back To Bentonia” utilizes a doleful Lightnin’ Hopkins thumb-picked bass groove and turnarounds to update the time honored travelin’ blues theme prevalent in so many early delta blues songs.

For three songs, Holmes traveled to Jimbo Mathus’ Delta Recording Studio in Clarksdale, Mississippi to work with drum legend Sam Carr, and show off his delta sensibilities on his own “Cool Water” and “Duck’s Shuffle.”

No one in Mississippi is making this kind of blues record today. If you have a place in your musical spirit for the blues born in the delta, this blues disc will remind you about everything you love and remember. And if you are beginning your blues journey with electricity, this is a record that will take your journey back to the essential origins of the blues.

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