out and headed to New York for a promising job with a singer named Jimmy Jones (of Handy Man fame). His younger brother Wendell joined him in New York after completing high school. The two brothers played in a few bands before forming The Sevilles in 1963. The group lasted only three years, but they often backed up touring artists like The Impressions, John Lee Hooker and Jerry Butler, gaining a wealth of experience. Sherman and Wendell met drummer Popsy Dixon, a fellow Virginian, at a New York gig in 1967. Dixon sat in with brothers and sang two songs. “After that second song,” recalls Wendell, “Popsy was a brother.” They continued to play in a variety of Top 40 bar bands—Wendell even toured with Inez and Charlie Foxx (Mockingbird)—until 1979, when the three officially joined forces and formed The Holmes Brothers band.
In the early years, the band worked primarily at Dan Lynch’s, a New York club that featured weekly jam nights and performances by a wide variety of blues acts, most notably, The Holmes Brothers. More importantly, the club served as a meeting ground for many members of New York’s blues community, including future members of Blues Traveler, Joan Osborne and producer/harmonicist Andy Breslau, who brought the group to Rounder Records.
Since their debut on Rounder in 1989, The Holmes Brothers have worked virtually non-stop. In addition to their four critically acclaimed Rounder albums, they recorded Jubilation for Peter Gabriel’s Real World label in 1992, becoming the first American group to record for the standout world music imprint. In 1994 they joined Van Morrison in the studio on the song That’s Where It’s At for the Real World compilation album, A Week Or Two In The Real World. 1996 found The Holmes Brothers starring in the independent motion picture, Lotto Land, for which they also recorded the soundtrack. The albums all received massive praise. “Mind-blowing,” said the Boston Herald. “Rich and satisfying,” raved The Washington Post. In 1997, Joan Osborne asked The Holmes Brothers to be her backing band when she opened for Bob Dylan.
After signing with Alligator in 2001, The Holmes Brothers released the magnificent Speaking In Tongues, produced by Osborne, who also sang backup vocals throughout. With help from Grammy-winning engineer Trina Shoemaker (Sheryl Crow’s The Globe Sessions), The Holmes Brothers created a contemporary album of spiritual soul music. Throughout Speaking In Tongues, the sweet gospel harmonies and classic soul shouting radiate authenticity and passion. Their interplay of voices and instruments is mesmerizing.
Response to Speaking In Tongues was phenomenal. The Holmes Brothers appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman, The CBS Saturday Early Show, as well as National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, A Prairie Home Companion and Mountain Stage. They were the subject of features and reviews in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Newsweek, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Examiner and countless other publications. Greg Kot of The Chicago Tribune called it a “joyous, foot-stomping carnival…a gift to the world of music.”
In 2003, The Holmes Brothers recorded versions of Trouble (Cat Stevens) and You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond (Blind Willie Johnson) for the soundtrack album for the popular television series Crossing Jordan. In addition, The Holmes Brothers appeared on the M.C. Records tribute album to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Shout, Sister, Shout!, backing Joan Osborne, Odetta, Victoria Williams and Phoebe Snow. That same year, Peter Gabriel released the single, Burn You Up, Burn You Down, featuring backing vocals by The Holmes Brothers.
2004’s Simple Truths found The Holmes Brothers receiving even more attention, as reviews ran in USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard, New York Post, and many other publications. They appeared on Outlaws And Angels—The Willie Nelson and Friends 3rd Annual Birthday Concert (televised on the USA Network and released on CD and DVD), Late Night With Conan O’Brien, World Cafe, Mountain Stage, as well as the National Public Radio programs All Things Considered, On Point and Here And Now. The Chicago Sun-Times called Simple Truths, “A breathtaking and heartfelt journey through gospel-drenched soul, blues, funk and country.” They won the coveted Blues Music Award from the Memphis-based Blues Foundation for Band Of The Year in 2005.
2007’s State Of Grace continued the upward trend. Again the band performed on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. Features and reviews ran in USA Today, The New York Times, Billboard, Time Out New York, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and many other publications. The album won the Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Album Of The Year. Rolling Stone called it “impressive, fervent country soul.”