“…ethereal, stark and emotional” Music Historian/Filmmaker Robert Gordon
Done Got Tired of Tryin’ – Top Ten Blues Album, NPR, 2007
“Make No Mistake: Jimmy Duck Holmes is a major blues figure, the most important
active performer in the country blues tradition.” Geoffrey Himes
Blue Front Records is honored to announce its inaugural release – It Is What It Is by Bentonia Blues legend Jimmy “Duck” Holmes on June 17th. After 6 successful and award winning CDs on other record labels, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’ newest release will be available on 180g vinyl, CD and as a digital download. The record company’s name was inspired by the Blue Front Café in Bentonia, MS, where the company was started with a handshake next to the steel barrel stove that heats the historic juke joint started by Jimmy’s parents in 1948 and run by Jimmy since 1970.
The entire album was recorded at the Blue Front Café, the oldest juke joint in Mississippi. The record purposefully allows its cinderblock acoustics to be Jimmy’s accompaniment compelling the listener to close their eyes and experience pulling up a chair in the old juke joint and listening to him play. Those same walls have absorbed the haunting music of Skip James, Jack Owens, Henry Stuckey, Bud Spires, Cornelius Bright, Tommy West and others over the years and provided the perfect feedback to Jimmy’s stark and dissonant blues.
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes is the embodiment of raw country blues and this album presents the full range of his singular talents. Jimmy’s tenor voice rises and falls along with the electric menace of an old Harmony Stratotone, the full smoothness of a 12 string and the jangling hypnotic rhythms of his acoustic Epiphone. A few songs also feature Jimmy’s slow and mournful harp overlaying and contrasting with the minor tuning that makes the Bentonia Blues so distinctive and unique.
The Bentonia Blues traces its roots to early blues musician, Henry Stuckey who developed a unique style of playing using an odd open D-minor and E-minor tuning that he developed after meeting some British soldiers from Trinidad or the Bahamas in France during World War I. Stuckey brought the tuning back to the small, isolated Mississippi town of Bentonia and taught it to Skip James, Jack Owens, Jacob Stuckey and Cornelius Bright. Together these musicians elevated the unique style of blues evolving in Bentonia by playing together and writing songs invoking dark and brooding imagery.
Bentonia Blues continued to develop when Mary and Carey Holmes started the Blue Front Café in 1948, the year after Jimmy “Duck” Holmes was born. Henry Stuckey lived next door. His guitar was the first guitar Jimmy ever held in his hands and Jimmy is regarded as the last bluesman Henry Stuckey ever taught. After Jimmy took over the operation of the Blue Front Café in 1970, it became more than just a place for the local blues musicians to play on weekends. It became the center of the Bentonia Blues with Jack Owens, Bud Spires, Jacob Stuckey, Cornelius Bright, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes and Hill Country Blues musician Tommy West regularly meeting at the Blue Front Café to shoot pool, have a few drinks and listen to each other play. Jack would teach Jimmy how to play the Bentonia Blues by telling him, “Watch my hands, boy. Watch my hands.”
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes has since emerged as one of the most original and uncompromising country blues musicians playing today as he preserves the Bentonia Blues tradition taught to him by the originals, Henry Stuckey and Jack Owens. Fans of Jimmy “Duck” Holmes and the Bentonia Blues can hear it first-hand almost every day at the Blue Front Café. Stop in and grab a cold drink on a hot summer day or sit by the barrel stove on a cold winter day and, if you’re lucky, Jimmy may play you a song or two. If you’re really lucky, he may show you how. Until then, fans can put on this record, close their eyes and listen to Jimmy’s toe tapping the dusty concrete floor, the light clacking of a ceiling fan, the roar of a train and the most original and important country blues being played today.
Jimmy will celebrate the release of It Is What It Is on June 17, 2016 with a party at the Blue Front Café, and nationwide on various platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, CD Baby, select record stores, at the Blue Front Café and on www.bluefrontrecords.com.
Current Tour Dates:
June 10 – National Ave. Block Party – Lexington, KY
June 13 – 18 Bentonia Blue Festival – Bentonia, MS
June 23 Iron Horse – Jackson, MS
June 24 Private Event – Greenwood, MS
June 25 Ponderosa Stomp Event – New Orleans, LA
June 28 4th of July Reception – U.S. Embassy – Santa Cruz, Bolivia
June 30 4th of July Reception – U.S. Embassy – La Paz, Bolivia
July 1 Master Class – Festiblues Bolivia – La Paz, Bolivia
July 2 Festiblues Bolivia – La Paz, Bolivia
July 8 Briggs Farm Blues Festival – Nescopeck, PA
July 9 Briggs Farm Blues Festival – Nescopeck, PA
July 28 Iron Horse Bar & Grill – Jackson, MS
July 31 – August 7 Centrum Blues School – Port Townsend, WA
August 8 Woodsong’s Old Time Radio Hour – Lexington, KY
August 13 Sunflower Blues Festival – Clarksdale, MS
October 1 Mighty Mississippi Music Festival – Greenville, MS
October 15 Crescent City Blues & BarBQ – New Orleans, LA