'An undiscovered treasure,' Holmes Brothers close Bates Concert Series

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Called “an undiscovered American treasure” by The Associated Press, the eclectic Holmes Brothers close the 2007-08 Bates College Concert Series with a performance at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 1, in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St.

The Holmes Brothers’ impassioned three-part harmonies, simmering energy and telepathic musicianship mix Saturday night’s roadhouse rock with the gospel fervor of Sunday’s church service. Admission for their Bates concert is $16/$6 (this price includes a $1 online handling fee). Tickets are available only at the online box office. For more information, please call 207-786-6135 or visit the concert series Web site.

The concert by the trio is the second consecutive night of rootsy music Bates presents that weekend. Corey Harris, known from his role in Martin Scorsese’s PBS-TV series The Blues, performs at Olin on Feb. 29.

Described by Entertainment Weekly as “juke-joint vets with a brazenly borderless view of American music,” The Holmes Brothers are bassist-vocalist Sherman Holmes, guitarist-pianist-vocalist Wendell Holmes and drummer-vocalist Popsy Dixon.

Layering country, Americana and pop onto a rock-solid foundation of blues and gospel, the three have recorded with Van Morrison, Odetta, Willie Nelson, Rosanne Cash and Joan Osborne, and have gigged all over the world. Their recordings include their highly regarded Alligator Records debut Speaking in Tongues (2001) and 2004’s Simple Truths, which a Chicago Sun-Times critic called a “breathtaking and heartfelt journey through gospel-drenched soul, blues, funk and country.”

Last year The Holmes Brothers released State Of Grace, produced by Craig Street (Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson) and featuring guest artists Cash, Osborne and The Band’s Levon Helm. Noted for their knack for adapting titles by esteemed songwriters, The Holmes Brothers extend that tradition on the new CD by reimagining songs by artists as diverse as John Fogerty, Cheap Trick, Hank Williams Sr. and Nick Lowe.

Sherman and Wendell Holmes grew up in Christchurch, Va. Their schoolteacher parents fostered the boys’ early interest in music as they listened to traditional Baptist hymns and spirituals, as well as blues by Jimmy Reed, Junior Parker and B.B. King. In 1963, the brothers formed The Sevilles, a group that lasted only three years but backed such touring artists as the Impressions, John Lee Hooker and Jerry Butler.

After The Sevilles broke up, Sherman, Wendell and fellow Virginian Popsy Dixon played together and apart in various bands until 1979, when they formed The Holmes Brothers.

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