In some ways, a lot has changed for Jimmy “Duck” Holmes since the release of his first CD in 2006. He’s been interviewed and written about extensively. He’s been nominated for big awards and invited to play major festivals. He even made an appearance on Good Morning America.
But for the most part, Duck’s life hasn’t changed much at all. He still lives in the house where he was born 62 years ago. He still runs the Blue Front Cafe, the rural juke joint his parents opened when he was an infant. And, of course, he continues to play his blues in the same mournful style that made his hometown of Bentonia, Mississippi, famous among blues lovers through the music of Skip James and Jack Owens.
Several cuts on this latest CD were recorded in a back room at Duck’s juke, but the bulk of the recordings stem from an April 2009 session at Bill Abel’s Big Toe Studio in Duncan, Mississippi. For the most part it’s just Duck and an acoustic guitar, but he plugs in for three raucous tracks with the young Lee Williams on drums.
The songs themselves are mostly originals, although Duck draws frequently and expertly from the deep pool of traditional blues lyrics developed by his forebears. Several of these songs have been in his live repertoire for years, but most are of a newer vintage. He tends to play them differently every time, switching up lyrics, tempo and structure based on his mood.
Yet regardless of what he plays, Duck never loses sight of his local tradition. “It’s still just straight Bentonia blues,” he says. “You can speed it up, slow it down, amplify it, put it with a band, but it’s still just the same thing Jack and Skip and the others were doing around here before I was born.”
With any luck, it’s the same thing he’ll be doing for decades to come.
- Jeff Konkel/Broke & Hungry Records
released October 1, 2009
Jimmy "Duck" Holmes - guitar & vocals
Lee Williams - drums (3, 6, 9)
Produced by Jeff Konkel
Recorded and mixed by Bill Abel
Production assistance by Roger Stolle
Mastered by Mark Yoshida at Audiographic Masterworks
Art direction and design by Joey Grisham
Photography by Lou Bopp
Tracks 5, 8 and 10 recorded April 1, 2008 at the Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, Mississippi.
Tracks 1-4, 6, 7 and 9 recorded April 19, 2009 at Bill Abel's Big Toe Studio in Duncan, Mississippi