The Holmes Brothers – Brotherhood | Album Review

theholmesbrotherscdThe Holmes Brothers – Brotherhood
Alligator Records
14 tracks; 54 minutes
The Holmes Brothers return after a hiatus of four years with their typical mixture of gospel sounds and secular tunes, all sung with the wonderful harmonies for which they are famous.  As usual, Sherman plays bass, Wendell guitar and Popsy Dixon drums but they are aided on most tunes by co-producers Chris Bruce on guitars and bass and Glenn Patscha on keys.  Catherine Russell helps on backing vocals on four tracks, Joe Bonadio and Kenny Wollesen add drums or percussion to several cuts and John Ellis and Antoine Drye add horns to three tracks.  Eight of the songs come from the brothers, Wendell providing six, Sherman two.
The opening brace of songs offer an almost perfect reflection of the brothers’ styles.  “Stayed At The Party” is an upbeat tune with a gospel sound but a distinctly secular lyric: “I stayed at the party just a little too long.  All the things I did, I knew they were wrong. If it was wet I drank it; I wouldn’t just drink it, I’d drink it till it was gone.”  Ted Hawkins’ “I Gave Up All I Had” is given an acoustic treatment, with each of the brothers stepping forward to sing a verse and then joining in on the chorus.  Sherman’s “Passing Through” is a bluesier tune with the horns adding extra colour.  Ike Turner’s “You’ve Got To Lose” has a striking falsetto lead vocal over an uptempo beat on a song that expresses how man will always be affected by the powers of women.  John Ellis’s tenor solo is a strong feature here with Catherine’s b/v’s clearly heard in the background.  The catchy “Lickety Split” is Wendell’s tune and is not to be confused with the recent Robert Randolph song of the same title.  “Soldier Of Love” comes from the pen of Welshman Geraint Watkins and is a ballad that really suits the brothers’ harmonies.  The percussion here is particularly effective, Joe Bonadio adding to Popsy’s drum patterns.
“Gone For Good” is as rocky as the brothers get on a catchy tune from Wendell, the first of a run of three.  “Loving You From Afar” is a stately ballad with great harmonies and “My Word Is My Bond” is another rocker with a reassuring message for the singer’s partner: “If I say I’m going downtown, don’t mean I’m cheating, baby, or messing around, not to worry, I won’t be long, my word is my bond”.  Curtis Salgado co-wrote “Driving In The Driving Rain” and included the song on his “Clean Getaway” album and the brothers do the song in quite similar fashion to Curtis.  William Bell and Booker T Jones’s “My Kind Of Girl” goes back further and the addition of the horns to the brothers’ vocals takes us back to the glory days of Atlantic soul.  Wendell’s “Darkest Hour” is a tough blues which uses the old phrase about ‘the darkest hour is just before dawn’ as its starting point.  Sherman’s “Last Man Standing” is a short upbeat tune with a good organ solo from Glenn before the album closes with some authentic gospel.  The brothers begin with some testifying reflecting on their lives before the familiar strains of “Amazing Grace” emerge, all three singers together as well as taking a solo verse so we can hear their distinctive voices.
This is another solid album from The Holmes Brothers.  Those who are already fans will love this one; those less familiar with their work should find plenty to enjoy here.
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