Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in Tongues

5.0 1
by The Holmes Brothers
     
 

Pop singer Joan Osborne moves into the producer's seat for the Holmes Brothers' latest, and the studio marriage sounds as if it was a blessed event. This Alligator Records debut for the Brothers is born-again blues, shouting, wailing and rocking but never without faith in the music from which they arose. Osborne smartly chose three of contemporary singer/songwriter… See more details below

Overview

Pop singer Joan Osborne moves into the producer's seat for the Holmes Brothers' latest, and the studio marriage sounds as if it was a blessed event. This Alligator Records debut for the Brothers is born-again blues, shouting, wailing and rocking but never without faith in the music from which they arose. Osborne smartly chose three of contemporary singer/songwriter Ben Harper's most moving tunes to set the CD in the present. Wendell Holmes cries from the wilderness of the disenfranchised on "Homeless Child," while Holmes' bassist Popsy Dixon's vocals are those of a tarnished angel on "I Shall Not Walk Alone." Sherman Holmes steps up the mic for a funereal reading of "I Want to Be Ready," one of the most spiritual tunes in Harper's songbook. None of the covers are far away from Harper's own readings, but the Brothers have age and experience him and quite naturally take the music to another level. The Holmes Brothers have always mixed gospel and blues so their own songs are also organic to the setting. Sherman penned the rockin' title cut, and the imagery of secular love as holy makes it as au current as BeBe or CeCe Wynans' tunes. His "New Jerusalem" and Wendell's bluegrass romp "Jesus Got His Hooks in Me" are toe-tappers, while the cover of Dylan's "Man of Peace" is dark and swampy. Of the traditional tunes that round out the album, Rosetta Tharpe's "Cant No Grave Hold My Body Down" is the most captivating with its funky guitar licks. Other than her role as producer Osborne is also present as one of three back-up singers who give the album a fuller, churchy sound. But her star presence only enhances what the Holmes Brothers have been doing for decades. Perhaps her work with them will also bring a wider audience to the Brothers: Speaking in Toungues is proof that they deserve to be heard beyond both the blues and gospel arenas. Roberta Penn

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
The sixth album by New York's Holmes Brothers is another all-spirituals set -- though not in the traditional sense of the word. Produced by pop singer Joan Osborne (before she was a superstar, Osborne woodshedded with the Brothers and developed a fine rootsy singing style of her own), who was there in the Manhattan trenches with the band, this set goes a long, long way to capturing raw, excruciating grooves. With the a trio of singers as soulful as any group Memphis or Motown ever produced, the Holmes Brothers take it to the gut each and every time. This set opens with Ben Harper's "Homeless Child," and let's just say after the deep, grease-fire funk the vocalizing creates, Harper should never play it again. This song now belongs to the Holmes Brothers. Sherman Holmes' groove on his "Speaking in Tongues" borrows a piece of a Rick James bassline and builds an entire gospel-funk number on top of it. This might not be the song you'd hear in church, but you should -- you might actually go. With a six-voice chorus kicking the refrain through every single barrier between spirituality and carnality, weight is lent to the notion that this Jesus that Sherman sings of is a flesh-and-blood Jesus, inspiring devotion and reverence in the everyday world. Osborne is able to accomplish what no other producer who has worked with this band has been able to do: She leaves their sound alone. Its rough edges, knotty corners, and rough-hewn grace are all displayed without reservation or apology. This is the band's barroom sound enhanced with a trio of female voices who, if anything, make it more raucous, more slippery, and somehow nastier, even though this is sanctified music. It's body music that seeks to transcend the body. Thank God it hasn't yet. Their Memphis soul-styled reading of Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "Can't No Grave Hold My Body Down" is revelatory. Taking her already deep blues and chunking it up with Wendell's wah-wahed guitar, and with Rob Arthur doubling on rhythm loops and funky organ, the thing threatens to lift right off the ground. Only the Precious Three anchor the tune's body to its heart and keep it earthbound. And besides the Holmes originals, another definitive reading of Harper's "I Want to Be Ready," and Bob Dylan's "Man of Peace," their radical reworking of Gamble and Huff's classic disco-gospel tune "Love Train" is confounding in its essentialism. It takes the harmony of the original tune and uses it to drop the melody out; it's replaced with a different shuffling rhythm and a Curtis Mayfield-styled chorus. With the Holmes Brothers, the song becomes an anthem of a different kind. Only Wendell, Sherman, and Popsy Dixon could take secular material and redeem it without stretching the truth. If anything, they inject truth directly into the meaning of a song that merely implies it. And they do so with such openness and beauty, without judgment or musical one-upmanship, that their courteous grace is apparent everywhere. This is the finest of the Holmes Brothers' recordings to make the street. It will be too bad if critics fault them for using Osborne as a producer, when she was uniquely qualified to bring their vision to the public. She's done a fine job, and one can only hope some of her fans will take notice of the greatest soul/gospel/blues/funk group on the planet. Awesome.

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Product Details

Release Date:
01/30/2001
Label:
Alligator Records
UPC:
0014551487722
catalogNumber:
514877
Rank:
180890

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Holmes Brothers   Primary Artist
Rob Arthur   Organ,Piano
Andy Breslau   Harmonica
Popsy Dixon   Percussion,Drums,Vocals
Sherman Holmes   Bass,Vocals
Wendell Holmes   Acoustic Guitar,Piano,Vocals
Catherine Russell   Mandolin,Vocals,Background Vocals
Joan Osborne   Vocals,Background Vocals
Paul Kahn   Guitar,Electric Guitar
Maydie Miles   Tambourine,Vocals,Background Vocals
Precious Three   Vocals

Technical Credits

Elvis Presley   Composer
Rob Arthur   Rhythm Loops
Wendell Holmes   Composer
Bruce Iglauer   Mastering
Kenneth S. Morris   Composer
Sister Rosetta Tharpe   Composer
Jonathan Wyner   Mastering
Joan Osborne   Producer
Paul Kahn   Executive Producer
Trina Shoemaker   Engineer
Public Domain   Composer
Traditional   Composer
Z. R. McEachen   Composer

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