"Drawing from the same well as the late great Jack Owens,
Bentonia’s Jimmy 'Duck' Holmes evokes the dry, hostly sounds
of his mentor. But after conjuring Jack’s spirit, Holmes develops
his own personality ethereal, stark and emotional. I’ve
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."
- Robert Gordon, Author of It Came From Memphis and
Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters
This spring, Broke & Hungry Records, a St.
Louis-based independent record label dedicated to recording
and releasing authentic country blues, will launch with a
bang. The label’s inaugural release, Back to Bentonia
by Jimmy “Duck” Holmes will undoubtedly be
hailed as one of the finest traditional blues albums in recent
Back to Bentonia represents the debut CD for the 58-year-old
Holmes. It will be available in stores and through the label’s
Web site at www.brokeandhungryrecords.com in April 2006.
Among serious fans of country blues, the very name Bentonia
conjures up images of hard times and cypress groves, black
cats and the ever-lurking devil. It was in this southern Delta
town that Skip James and Jack Owens lived and played, giving
rise to the term Bentonia Blues, a haunting, forlorn style
of blues known the world over. When Owens died in 1997, most
assumed that the Bentonia Blues died with him.
They were wrong.
In the 1970s, Owens became determined to pass the tradition
forward and he enlisted a younger aspiring guitarist for the
project. His disciple, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes was no stranger
to the blues. He was the owner of the Blue Front Cafe, a now-famous
juke joint that had been opened by his parents in 1948. And
he was already a talented guitarist in his own right.
But under Owens’ tutelage, Holmes became a master of country
blues. He learned to play and sing songs from the celebrated
canon of James and Owens, songs like, “I’d Rather Be the Devil,”
“Hard Times” and “Cherry Ball.” But he also developed his
own songwriting voice, and when he coupled those songs with
the Bentonia stylings of his predecessors, the effect was
Yet for some reason, Holmes has remained virtually unknown
in the blues world. Other than a handful of unreleased or
obscure recordings, Holmes and his remarkable talent have
been little more than a rumor to most blues fans.
Recorded during two sessions in November 2005, this remarkable
CD features Holmes in stunning form, both vocally and instrumentally.
Like so many classic blues recordings, Back to Bentonia is
dominated by tales of scornful and treacherous women, but
Holmes’ lyrical nuances and haunting delivery come together
to create a listening experience that is wholly his own.
The lion’s share of these tracks stem from an all-acoustic
session recorded at that Blue Front Cafe on an unseasonably
warm November evening. Several tracks from this session feature
the legendary Bud Spires playing harp. For decades, Spires
was Jack Owens’ musical partner and foil. His presence on
this album only adds to its historical importance. On the
album’s final track, Spires even takes a rare turn at the
microphone on the rollicking “Your Buggy Don’t Ride Like Mine.”
The remaining tracks on Back to Bentonia stem from a brief
recording session held at Jimbo Mathus’ Delta Recording Studio
in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Equally raw and stripped down
as the Blue Front tracks, these recordings nevertheless stand
in stark contrast to those from the earlier session. Here
the guitarist plays in a raucous amplified form to the accompaniment
of the great Sam Carr on drums.
Back to Bentonia promises to be one of the most talked about
blues releases of 2006 and one of the finest traditional blues
albums in recent memory.
For more information on this exciting release, contact Jeff
Konkel of Broke & Hungry Records by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.