Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – Cypress Grove
11 songs time – 38:57
72 year old Jimmy “Duck” Holmes is pretty much the last link to the Bentonia, Mississippi tradition of the country blues. As the proprietor of the longest running juke joint in America, Jimmy tries to instill the essence of his musical heritage, whether it be in front of a few or hundreds. The crude off-handedness is captured here by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. Jimmy recorded his portion of the recording in a mere three hours and Dan and others added their sonic touches. Modern electric guitar flourishes contribute to the haunting and stark quality of the music.
Skip James’ “Hard Times” leads off being the sole song with just Jimmy and his acoustic guitar. The guitar here for lack of a better description sounds “stringy”. Another James classic blues number “Cypress Grove” is Jimmy with a drummer and bass player. A short but good interpretation. Auerbach makes his first appearance on electric guitar on the perennial “Catfish Blues”. Auerbach carries the riff and interjects some guitar stabs to heighten the musical tension.
Jimmy Rogers’ “Goin’ Away Baby” has the electric guitar adding a didgeridoo-like sound for an exotic twist. A jarring metallic guitar surge invigorates the song. Marcus King introduces his admirable and ominous slide guitar skills to Muddy Waters’ “Rock Me”. The song is carried along in a loose groove. The Willie Dixon penned Howlin’ Wolf signature song “Little Red Rooster” is rendered virtually unrecognizable except for the slightly rewritten lyrics. It’s basically a recitation over a new riff. Leon Michels adds saxophone.
Auerbach sits out for yet another Skip James classic “Devil Got My Woman”. Jimmy and bass and drums. Jimmy’s plaintive vocalizing here as elsewhere throughout the album. Marcus King gives a guitar assist to Auerbach once again on the original “All Night Long”, a trance-like number that mainly consists of repeating the title over and over. Marcus’s slide once again cuts through the night.
Jimmy describes the inevitable reality in the wonderfully ragged “Gonna Get Old Someday”. Jessie Mae Brooks’ “Train Train” displays the resonance of Jimmy’s world weary voice. Auerbach’s reliable haunting guitar bluesifys the song down to the crossroads. Jimmy describes the attributes of his little bitty and big fat woman in “Two Women”.
Purchase this gem that harkens back to a simpler time of the blues and let it soak in because sooner than we wish to think the real deal “dyed in the wool” bluesmen will be a thing of the past and we will be left with musicians trying to keep the blues going. Dan Auerbach has a knack for adding modern touches that fit sonically into the ragged vibe. That isn’t a bad thing but the guys that came up through hard times that lived the sagas in their songs will be a memory. Treat yourself to this living history lesson.