Getting old sucks, but some things just get better with age — just ask Wendell Holmes of the Holmes Brothers, who has dealt with some of the health issues that go along with advancing years (including a recent struggle with bladder cancer), and used them to help fuel a creative fire that’s burning brighter than ever. In fact, the Holmes Brothers’ latest, Feed My Soul, represents an artistic reawakening — for Wendell, who wrote seven of the album’s 14 tracks, and for the trio as a whole, which recorded some of its deepest, most resonant performances for the set.
Of course, if you know anything about the Holmes Brothers’ brand of gospel soul, you know their catalog is fairly impeccable, so it’s really saying something that Feed My Soul represents a noticeable step forward. I wasn’t optimistic when I read that Joan Osborne was producing the album, but her work behind the boards actually does the band a lot of favors — Osborne gets dirt under everyone’s fingernails here, bathing every grain in the Brothers’ voices in warmth and light while stripping their sound down to its pure fundamentals.
Given Wendell’s brush with mortality — and the fact that one of Soul‘s earliest tracks is the recession blues number “Edge of the Ledge” — you might expect this to be a somber collection, but nothing could be further from the truth; from the smooth, Hammond-buoyed title track to the harmonica-laced kiss-off number “Rounding Third” (not to mention “Take Me Away,” the graceful, piano-led benediction that closes things out), this is a loose, sunny album, the sound of men who have faced the darkness and lived to shrug it off. It’s titled Feed My Soul, but this set of songs is really food for yours. Get yourself to the table.
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