On June 17th, Jimmy "Duck" Holmes will release It Is What It Is, the inaugural record on his self-created Blue Front Records. The label was named after the cafe opened by his parents in 1948 and run by Jimmy since 1970, which hosted such influential Bentonia blues musicians as Skip James, Jack Owens, and Henry Stuckey. The intimate cafe atmosphere also served as a recording space, capturing the haunting sounds of Jimmy's tenor voice, an electric Harmony Stratotone, a 12-string, and an acoustic Epiphone. A few songs are also overlaid with a harp with the distinctive Bentonia blues sound of minor tuning. With the unique acoustics of the cafe's cinderblock walls, the listener can easily imagine they've stopped at the oldest juke joint in Mississippi to pull up a chair and listen to Jimmy play.
The Bentonia blues originated when musician Henry Stuckey began playing using open D-minor and E-minor tuning that he learned from meeting some British soldiers in France during World War I. Stuckey introduced the tuning to the isolated Mississippi town of Benton and taught it to Skip James, Jack Owens, Jacob Stuckey, and Cornelius Bright. While these musicians further defined the sound by pairing this tuning with dark imagery, Mary and Carey Holmes started the Blue Front Cafe next door to Henry Stuckey. Jimmy "Duck" Holmes is known as one of the last blues men Stuckey ever taught, and when he took over the cafe in 1970, it became the heart of the Bentonia blues scene, with Jack Owens, Bud Spires, Jacob Stuckey, and more regularly meeting and playing there.
The Blue Front Cafe is still in operation, and those who are lucky enough can sometimes stop by and see Jimmy "Duck" Holmes perform a few songs there. However, those who can't make it by can listen to this record when it is released on 180g vinyl, CD, and digitally on June 17th and easily imagine they are there.
Jimmy's upcoming tour dates:
June 10 - National Ave. Block Party – Lexington, KY
June 13 – 18 Bentonia Blue Festival – Bentonia, MS
June 23 Iron Horse – Jackson, MS
June 24 Private Event – Greenwood, MS
June 25 Ponderosa Stomp Event - New Orleans, LA
June 28 4th of July Reception – U.S. Embassy – Santa Cruz, Bolivia
June 30 4th of July Reception - U.S. Embassy – La Paz, Bolivia
July 1 Master Class – Festiblues Bolivia – La Paz, Bolivia
July 2 Festiblues Bolivia – La Paz, Bolivia
July 8 Briggs Farm Blues Festival – Nescopeck, PA
July 9 Briggs Farm Blues Festival – Nescopeck, PA
July 28 Iron Horse Bar & Grill – Jackson, MS
July 31 – August 7 Centrum Blues School – Port Townsend, WA
August 8 Woodsong’s Old Time Radio Hour – Lexington, KY
August 13 Sunflower Blues Festival – Clarksdale, MS
October 1 Mighty Mississippi Music Festival – Greenville, MS
October 15 Crescent City Blues & BarBQ – New Orleans, LA