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Soul Blues Legends The Holmes Brothers Receive 2014 National Heritage Fellowship

[06/25/2014]
"Fervent, inspired and joyful blues, R&B, soul, roadhouse rock and gospel
...beautiful harmonies, true magic." --NPR


 

On Wednesday, June 25, The National Endowment For The Arts (NEA) announced that soul/blues/gospel legends The Holmes Brothers (Wendell Holmes, Sherman Holmes and Popsy Dixon) will receive a coveted and prestigious National Heritage Fellowship.

According to the NEA, "The National Heritage Fellowship is the highest honor that our nation bestows upon its folk and traditional artists. NEA National Heritage Fellowships recognize the recipients' artistic excellence and support their continuing contributions to our nation's traditional arts heritage."

The Holmes Brothers, as 2014 NEA National Heritage Fellows, will be honored along with the other recipients at an awards ceremony on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 and a concert at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium on Friday, September 19, 2014. Both events will be open to the public and the concert will be streamed live at arts.gov. More information, including how to obtain free tickets to the concert, will be available later this summer.


The Chicago Tribune described the amazing musical team of Wendell Holmes, Sherman Holmes and Popsy Dixon as "a gift to the world of music." Melding blues, soul, gospel, traditional hymns, spirituals, country, R&B, and rock and roll, The Holmes Brothers blend American roots music with their telepathic musicianship and trademark three-part harmonies. The Tribune declared that the three men together “become a mystical fourth entity, inexplicable yet sublime.”

Sherman and Wendell Holmes were born and raised in Christchurch, Virginia. Both sang in church and played piano. Sherman also learned clarinet and Wendell took up trumpet and organ. In addition, both taught themselves to play the guitar. Sherman studied theory and composition at Virginia State University for two years before dropping out and moving to New York. A few years later his brother joined him there and throughout the 1960s and '70s, the brothers performed together and in a variety of bands. In the early '70s, Wendell met and performed with drummer Willie "Popsy" Dixon, who was also a native Virginian. Dixon sat in with the brothers at a blues jam session in 1980, marking the beginning of The Holmes Brothers band with Sherman on baritone vocals and bass guitar, Wendell on tenor vocals, guitar, and piano, and Popsy on falsetto vocals and drums.

At first the band primarily played at Dan Lynch's, a club in New York that featured weekly jam nights and performances by blues acts. There The Holmes Brothers acted as role models and mentors to younger aspiring musicians, including Joan Osborne and members of Blues Traveler. In 1989, they released their first album for Rounder Records, followed by four more albums. In 1992, they were the first American group to sign with Peter Gabriel's Real World Records and in 1996 they recorded the soundtrack for the movie Lotto Land. For the last 13 years, they have recorded for Alligator Records, where they have released five albums, including their latest, 2014's Brotherhood.

The Holmes Brothers have toured internationally and have performed with artists such as Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, Odetta, Willie Nelson, Rosanne Cash, and Levon Helm. In 2005, they won The Blues Music Award for Band of the Year from The Blues Foundation, followed by the award for Soul Blues Album of the Year in 2008 for State of Grace.


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