In maintaining the deep blues vein I’ve been traversing, the last of the Bentonia, Mississippi bluesmen, the great Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, played a harrowing couple hour set at Guitar Bar, Jr. in history rich, Hoboken, NJ this past Saturday night. The birthplace of Frank Sinatra hosted what turned out to be a transcendental visit to the Mississippi Delta via the mysterious guitar tuning and sweet, sweet blues the charismatic, ever-cool Holmes commandeered. There was an air of the early 60s folk movement when the Delta bluesmen first had their ‘resurgence’ as the so-called ‘blues mafia’ whisked local legends the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Fred McDowell, Sleepy John Estes, and Lightning Hopkins to coin a few, northbound and east to the Greenwich Village beatnik hot spots and that Folk Festival Ol’ Bobby Dylan shocked by plugging into an amp up in coastal Rhode Island. A snapshot that may have looked every bit from the 60s sans the laptops and fancy recording gear, a healthy reminder the American Roots music is alive and well.
Nearly 50 people were gathered tight to “Duck” and his amp, hanging on every word, story, and obtuse chordal offering like a midnight church service. Spirited versions of “All Night Long”, “Devil Blues”, and a “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” that will echo through my memory banks for as long as I’m still here on this Earth to replay it – possibly onward into the next adventure as well. Adding to the spirituality is the premise behind the establishment itself. The junior store to the flagship location up on the main drag, Guitar Bar Jr. is a shop specializing in sharing the gift of music and instrumentation to the many young Hoboken natives. Hosting classes for kids of all ages and promoting the arts one small soul at a time.
The irony being in the past three weeks we’ve brought the legendary CeDell Davis to NYC for a couple shows, this week we have Leo “Bud” Welch for more than a handful of shows in the NYC and New Jersey area, and alas via the wonders of the ol’ social webs, I found out Jimmie “Duck” Holmes is in town. If that’s not a sign that things are moving in the right direction, color me obsessed.
Mr. Holmes owns and operates the mystical Blue Front Café in Bentonia where you’ll usually find him ready to share a song and a smile. You can settle right in for a real life lesson on the Bentonia version of the Hill Country blues and try like hell to figure out what tuning he’s playing in if you’re a picker yourself. That’s the beauty and the mystery of it all, the only ones who know are the ones who invented it, Mr. Holmes is the last man standing. Dig deeper, you deserve it.
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