Jimmy "Duck" Holmes

Cypress Grove

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Jimmy "Duck" Holmes is one of the last practitioners of old-fashioned Mississippi blues, playing a variation that belongs to the Yazoo county town of Bentonia. Holmes kept that sound alive at his own juke joint and on a series of records in the 2000s, but the 2019 album Cypress Grove is designed as a vehicle to introduce the bluesman to a wider audience. Dan Auerbach, the lead singer of the Black Keys and head of the Easy Eye Sound studio and label, shepherded the project, bringing Holmes up to Nashville to record with a bunch of his cohorts, including guitarist Marcus King. Undoubtedly, this crew is much larger than the roster that usually shows up on a Holmes album, but Auerbach doesn't overload the grooves of Cypress Grove. At times, he has Holmes perform with a full band, sometimes emphasizing King's vivid, greasy slide, but at all times, Auerbach lets Holmes set the pace and flavor, grounding every one of the 11 tracks in the spooky stomp of the Delta. All the extra color isn't extraneous, though. Auerbach's band of pros accentuates Holmes' full-blooded, deeply etched blues, lending dimension to both his guitar and voice. It's a modernization of his sound but not a bowdlerization; if anything, it's perhaps the finest realization of Holmes' blues. At the very least, it's certainly the liveliest and boldest album he's made.

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