Issue 62

The Sherman Holmes Project: 

Just What the Doctor Ordered


SHerman Holmes Project Album coverMy friend and State of Virginia Folklorist, Jon Lohman surprised me recently with a copy of a new CD he’s produced entitled, The Sherman Holmes Project: The Richmond Sessions. Devoted followers of Opinion8ed2 will recognize Jon as the multi-talented force behind Jonny and the Jambusters and organizer/producer of the Crooked Road series.   On first listen I realized it was something special… yet another exciting musical collaboration deserving of a review on these pages.

neo nazis in charlottesvilleBut before I could sit down at the keyboard and start working on this review, the world was hit with another surprise from Jon’s hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.  Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other assorted white supremacist trash, mostly from out of town, crawled out of the slime to gather for a hate-fest celebration they called Unite the Right.  They came armed with implements of destruction aiming for a fight and one of their impressionable young converts committed a cowardly terrorist assault on innocent counter protesters, killing one person and injuring scores of others.

To make matters worse, the POTUS who has surrounded himself with like-minded white supremacists refused to condemn these hate mongers, instead spouting some false equivalence rhetoric about “both sides” being at fault.  He was then shamed into a half-hearted scripted “clarification” in which he denounced racism, read from the teleprompter with about as much conviction as the Catholic priest reciting 10 Hail Marys after confessing to raping young boys.  A couple of days later he went back to his original story of there “being very fine people on both sides.”  Really?  How many fine Nazi white supremacist racists does he know?

So I found it difficult to focus on the music until I realized The Sherman Holmes Project album entitled, “The Richmond Sessions” represents the perfect musical antidote to the expressions and politics of hate that rained upon Virginia that late summer weekend.  The recording is a collaboration between black and white, old and young musicians from a broad range of backgrounds working together to serve up a potent elixir of cross-cultural musical traditions steeped in their common Virginia roots.  From the opening number, Rock of Ages, to the last cut on the disk, Homeless Child, it exudes the love that so clearly went into its crafting.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Sherman smilingSherman was a member of the successful trio, the Holmes Brothers, purveyors of blues, soul, R&B, gospel, and country music who achieved much acclaim over their 40 + year career together, culminating in their receiving the National Heritage Fellowship in 2014, the highest honor presented to traditional artists in the U.S.

Sherman and menteeJon recruited these VA natives to serve as mentors in the Virginia Folklife Mentorship program, where artists work one-on-one with talented young apprentices to keep traditional music, art, and cultural traditions alive and well.  Unfortunately, both his brother Wendell and friend/bandmate Popsy Dixon died within months of each other before the program was completed.  Devastated but dedicated, Sherman pushed through his sorrow to complete the mentorship program, performing with 11 year old Whitney Nelson and consenting to do a solo number in memory of his departed brother and friend.  It was this performance of “I Want Jesus” (a version of which is included on The Richmond Sessions) that blew Jon away and planted the seed for this project.

Jon and ShermanIt didn’t take much convincing to get Sherman on board – even at 77 years old he was eager to try his first solo effort and work with the incredible ensemble of Virginia-based musicians that Jon lined up.  In addition to Sherman on vocals, bass and keyboards these include the Ingramettes on background vocals, Rob Ickes (dobro), Jared Pool (mandolin, Telecaster guitar), Sammy Shelor (banjo), Jacob Eller (upright bass), David Van Deventer (fiddle), Brandon Davis (guitar), Jon Lohman (harmonica), and DJ Harrison (Hammond B-3 and drums), Calvin Cool-Aid Curry (Bass), Stuart Hamilton (piano), Randall Cort (drums), Clarence Walters (drums), and special guest Joan Osborne.  I first saw the Holmes Brothers when they opened for Joan on a tour several years back.

RichmondSessions1 group shot


IngramettesSherman invites us to walk with him and the Ingramettes back in time to his early gospel roots, in “I Want Jesus,” which features other-worldly solos by Van Deventer (fiddle), Shelor (banjo), and Ickes (dobro).


joan osborneOther standouts include the Holland, Dozier, Holland classic “Don’t Do It,” first recorded by Marvin Gaye but incorporated into the Band’s standard repertoire (apparently Sherman was good buddies with Levon Helm) and a soulful rendition of  “The Dark End of the Street, ”the haunting tune made popular by Linda Rondstadt,  with great harmony vocals by Joan Osborne (another long-time friend of Sherman’s).

“Lonesome Pines” features sweet solos by Rob Ickes on dobro and Sammy Shelor on banjo.”  There’s even an excellent rendition of the John Fogarty/Creedance   favorite, “Green River.”  Stuart Hamlin’s funky piano sets the tone for the traditional tune, “Wide River,” another nod to Sherman’s gospel roots.  Nothing demonstrates Sherman’s broad range and legitimate country roots more than the Carter Stanley tune, “White Dove,” where once again, Ickes dobro and Van Deventer’s fiddle soar.  Finally, Ben Harper’s “Homeless Child” features more Ickes and Shelor on dobro and banjo, plus Van Deventer’s high flying fiddle and even some bonus harmonica licks from none other than Mr. Lohman himself.

Fast forward a few weeks… the nation’s collective blood pressure is off the charts as the white supremacist residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. continues to throw red meat to his base, by attacking African American football players and owners for protesting the racist shit that his administration is normalizing.

24-nfl-ravens-jaguars-anthem-protest_w710_h473Looking for some temporary relief from the stress of listening to the news each night?  Just click on the link below for a free sample and then fill this prescription for a copy of The Sherman Holmes Project: The Richmond Sessions, at your favorite record store.  Listen to it twice and get a good night’s sleep…then email me (or use the postage paid comment box below) in the morning to let me know how you’re feeling.
Correction: An earlier edition stated Jon’s hometown is Richmond. He and his family reside in Charlottesville, VA

Published on September 25, 2017 at 1:54 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Whoa! Thanks for the post. I need that Sherman CD. I’m smiling

    Editor’s response: Thanks Mary, Sherman sure is the real deal! It was lots of fun seeing him together at the Richmond Folk Festival. I can see this might become an annual pilgrimage!


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