Maybe it was because they were especially
energized by the hefty Boston Community Choir that opened the show, and by the racially
mixed audience they drew. But the Holmes Brothers - the venerable, nearly
unclassifiable roots-music trio from Chistchurch, Virginia - chose to begin
their set in the Remis Auditorium with gospel. Five gospel numbers in fact,
starting with some free-tempo testifying from Wendell Holmes before slipping
into the first chorus of "Amazing Grace." Then it was their peerless three-part
harmonies (a joy throughout the one-hour set), a lyrical, surprise-filled
guitar solo from Wendell, and drummer Popsy Dixon taking a chorus of his own
with what has to be the sweetest gospel falsetto this side of Aaron Neville.
Generally, you could call the Holmeses a blues band, but there was
some biting rockabilly in Wendell's guitar playing, urban soul in brother
Sherman's muscular, nimble electric bass, and rock, jazz, and funk in Popsy's
cross rhythms. "We gonna be rockin' and rollin' in a minute," said Wendell,
settling behind the keyboards, "but right now I got the Holy Ghost."