Brotherhood, our latest album by the wonderfully soulful Holmes Brothers, will be released in the U.S. and Canada on April 1 (We made it available in the rest of the world last fall). The Holmes’ just don’t sound like any other band. They’ve always performed all kinds of roots music–blues, old school R&B, Americana, gospel, even country–with gorgeous Sunday morning vocal harmonies and intense Saturday night juke joint fervor. For Brotherhood, they chose to make a record especially with their blues fans in mind. They created eight fresh originals and made inspired choices of covers by the likes of Ike Turner, Ted Hawkins, Booker T. Jones and William Bell. They brought their amazing voices and gloriously rough-edged playing to every song. Wendell’s raw tenor vocals and wildly unpredictable guitar, Sherman’s deep baritone vocals and unconventional electric bass, and Popsy’s soaring falsetto and eclectic drumming all unite to deliver a sound that’s entirely their own. And when their voices join together in inspired, gospel-infused harmony, it’s pure magic. Don’t miss Brotherhood.
There’s nothing more exciting for me than nurturing and bringing forward new blues talent. In the last month, we’ve announced the signing of two major league artists still in their 20s, and finished the production of both their Alligator debuts. Mississippi’s Jarekus Singleton and Florida’s Selwyn Birchwood are the latest members of the Alligator family, and among the most creative and charismatic of the next generation of blues. Both are focused, intelligent young artists with plenty to say, driven to make their own statements that honor the blues tradition without repeating it. Jarekus’ album, Refuse To Lose, was cut in Memphis late last year and early this year, and I had the huge pleasure of co-producing with him. We’re releasing it on May 6th. Selwyn has been self-producing his own tracks since even before he triumphed over 125 other bands to win the 2013 International Blues Challenge in Memphis (also scoring the Albert King Guitar Award). We mixed twelve of those tracks in Chicago a few weeks ago. His premier Alligator release, Don’t Call No Ambulance, will come out the first week of June, just in time for his first appearance at the Chicago Blues Festival. Both albums are made up entirely of new artist-composed songs, some of which are guaranteed to become blues classics. Because Selwyn’s album won’t be released until after the next issue of LB, I’ll tell you all about it then.
It was Jarekus Singleton’s showcase at the semi-finals of that same 2013 International Blues Challenge that first alerted me to his potential. He hit the stage like a young lion stalking his prey, delivering some super-hot guitar, storytelling vocals, and four striking original songs (three of which appear on Refuse To Lose). I was taken with his surprising lyrics, unusual melodies and chord changes and his sly sense of humor. When we talked, I found out that he was 29 and came from Clinton, just outside of Jackson, Mississippi. A few weeks later, I flew down to see him play for a full evening at a local club, and watched him grab ahold of the audience and never let go, building the energy song after song. Over the next months he sent me a whole series of new compositions, and I realized that I had discovered a formula-bending young musician who wasn’t retelling familiar blues stories in familiar ways, and who created unexpected rhymes and images –a true wordsmith who wrote like a rapper (minus the sexism) while playing and singing like a bluesman. Because he had started playing in church, and had grown up listening to hip-hop before he fell in love with the blues, he wasn’t locked into the standard blues lyrics and grooves when he began creating his own music.
I urge you to visit alligator.com and listen to songs from Refuse To Lose, and to catch Jarekus’ thrilling live show when he comes to your city. He’s already booked for the Springing The Blues, The North Atlantic, Mississippi Valley, Cincinnati and PA Blues Festivals as well as Cognac Blues Passions in France. Live and on record, he’s a young bluesman you need to hear.