The Holmes Brothers have been singing, performing, and recording together longer than most couples can stay married. Through the years, they’ve learned a thing or two about love, living together, and what really matters. Through their music, the trio continues to give and receive love and life.

After recently spending an intense session in the recording studio, the Holmes Brothers have taken to the road, which includes a stop in Rockland for the annual North Atlantic Blues Festival. The band is slated to perform Sunday afternoon.

Just a day after the recording session, band member and songwriter Wendell Holmes took a few minutes to talk on the phone from his Maryland home. Holmes revealed a gentle and gracious quality in his recognizably rough voice that comes from an appreciation for life. He noted that he shares this with his older brother Sherman and longtime band member, who might as well be their brother, Popsy Dixon.

The band’s 2011 release “Feed My Soul,” came on the heels of Wendell’s bout with cancer. For the past five years, he has been clear of the disease and unapologetically gives credit to God for his life, his parents for encouraging him and his brother to pursue music, and his cousin for letting them play at his juke joint.

“We grew up with gospel music, and gospel is very much in me,” said Holmes. “I’m a Jesus person. And Jesus doesn’t have a problem with a juke joint on Saturday night and church on Sunday morning. He turned water into wine, not the other way around.”

Gospel roots continuously entwine with Holmes’ love for country and blues. On the band’s 2004 “Simple Truths” album, the country classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” takes on a distinct amen-choir air. But then again, the band deftly slowed down Elvis Costello’s “Peace, Love, and Understanding” into a two-four country tune on its 2007 “State of Grace” album.

“I don’t just like country music, I love it,” said Holmes. ” ‘He’ll Have to Go’ by Jim Reeves is a show-stopper for us.”

For the Holmes Brothers, it’s all American music that can’t really be separated just like their lives with each other and with the music can’t be separated. The track “Living Well Is the Best Revenge” on “Feed My Soul” twangs out a Merle Haggard feels while “Edge of the Ledge” beats out a Levon Helm sound.

And the Holmes Brothers have been sought after to record and perform with a host of music superstars such as Haggard and Helm, in addition to Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel and Willie Nelson.

When asked if he prefers the background or center stage, Holmes quickly set the record straight.

“None of us believe that we are the straw that stirs the drink,” said Holmes. “It bothers me not to sing in the background. If you’re that kind of person, you’re in a world of trouble. Some of the very best musicians and singers I’ve known in all my years have never made a dime.”

It’s this attitude that has also kept the three musicians together for the four decades.

“We love the music,” said Holmes. “It’s not for the money or the fame or any of that mess. Sometimes we get a little angry at each other, but for 44 years we’ve been through thick and the thin. We love each other.”

Holmes added that they have learned to overlook each other’s quirks and to avoid trouble. For example, they never share hotel rooms while on the road. They also never talk about the best or worst places they’ve played. “We might have to go back there some day,” said Holmes through a good-natured chortle and noting that the band has performed in 50 different countries and all 50 states.

“Personally, I can sit at my piano with my wife and daughter, and that’s the best gig,” said Holmes.

When it comes to the basics, Holmes walks the talk. The Holmes Brothers’ latest recording, which will include eight or nine original songs and is scheduled for release this fall, goes back to old-time blues, said Holmes. He added that “Amazing Grace” will make an encore appearance. The band hasn’t recorded the inspirational hymn since 1992 on the album Jubilation. As for the title of the new album, they haven’t decided. Maybe Brotherhood, maybe Back to the Basics. Whatever the album is called, The Holmes Brothers and their music can be called true and timeless.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.