Picks and Pans Review: In the Spirit

updated 06/04/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/04/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Holmes Brothers

It could be said that soul music came into being when gospel took a walk down the aisle with the blues. Three Virginia-born sons of that commingling who have finally put their versatile live act on wax are guitarist-vocalist Wendell Holmes, his bassist-vocalist brother Sherman and drummer-vocalist Popsy Dixon.

Joining with vocalist Angel Acevedo and saxophonist Anders Gaardnand, the Holmeses and Dixon bring to this ragged but right mix of soul, R&B, blues and gospel numbers a freshness and an avoidance of facile styling that adds up to a kind of raw-boned virtuosity.

Dixon's gospel-graced falsetto is commanding and ethereal, vitalizing such bar band favorites as "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby" and the smoky James Oden gem "Going Down Slow." When gravel-voiced Wendell and his baritone brother Sherman join in for slow and steady vocal harmonies on the much-covered "Baby, What You Want Me to Do," it sounds, unbelievably, nearly new.

On the gospel side of this creative group's sound is the traditional hymn "None but the Righteous," which Sherman says he and Wendell first heard at a baptism service in their hometown of Christchurch, Va. The interplay of Popsy's high flying wails, Wendell's gruff snouts and Sherman's middle-range blendings make this one of the most satisfying tracks. What one hears in these voices is something round, real and even by turns ecstatic.

In sure and surprising ways, you get exactly what you want in a soul band from these veterans of the New York-area music club scene—bona fide, deep, resonating music. (Rounder)

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