Album Reviews

Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes

Live from Briggs Farm

Artist:     Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes

Album:     Live from Briggs Farm

Label:     Briggs Farm Blues/Blue Front

Release Date:     04/15/2016

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For 18 years Richard Briggs, President and founder of the Briggs Farm Blues Festival, ensures that his audiences can hear authentic Mississippi Delta Blues. He visits Mississippi every couple of years to speak with artists and gain a greater appreciation for this indigenous art form. It comes as no real surprise then that the first artist to debut on the Briggs Farm Blues Records is Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes, who has played the festival many times. Richard says, “ Our goal is to record the blues artist that you may not necessarily heard of through pop culture, but have had a big part in building the foundation of this incredible art form- Blues so that generations to come can listen. Capturing these musicians in a live audience setting is like magic. The artists feed off of the audience, which makes for some very special impromptu moments, just something that can’t be recreated in a studio setting. It’s timeless.”

Holmes is today’s flagbearer for a style called Bentonia Blues, typically played in haunting style in an D-Minor or E-Minor tuning that lends itself to storytelling. In fact, perhaps the most compelling aspect of this recording are Jimmy’s stories, as he talks about his mentors Henry Stuckey, Skip James and Jack Owens while eschewing any technical notions about guitar tuning  (“I just pick up the guitar and play’) in “Bentonia Blues Narrative.” As the owner of Mississippi’s (and probably America’s) oldest running juke joint, The Blue Front Café, Jimmy talks about installing “inside plumbing” just last year and speaks to the characteristics by pointing out that all juke joints have in common moonshine, fighting, gambling, and women; and that there’s always a back room where they shot craps. It was opened in 1948, never been closed, and Jimmy took over in 1970. Wikipedia has this description: The Blue Front Cafe is a historic old juke joint made of cinder block in BentoniaMississippi on Highway 49, approximately 30 miles northwest of Jackson, which played an important role in the development of the blues in Mississippi. What the definition leaves out is equally important. At its peak, it was best known for its Buffalo Fish and Bootleg Moonshine.

The hour long album was recorded on the intimate Briggs Farm Back Porch Stage which is the perfect setting for audience interaction. Holmes’ blues are mesmerizing, often rather eerie, and subtle.  You need to sit in quiet place and concentrate on the words and the imagery as Holmes transports you back to a simpler time as typified in song titles like “Bath Water”, “Cool Water”, and “Shaggy House.” Come on out and hear him live as he will be appearing again at this year’s Briggs Farm Blues Festival July 8-10 in Nescopeck, PA. In the meantime you can purchase this fine recording at www.BRIGGSFARM.com

PS – Also, look for Jimmy Duck Holmes next studio recording, It Is What It Is ,on June 17th

-Jim Hynes

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