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Broke & Hungry Records announces release of
Back to Bentonia by Jimmy “Duck” Holmes
Famed juke joint owner’s debut CD recalls music of Skip James, Jack Owens

"Drawing from the same well as the late great Jack Owens, Bentonia’s Jimmy 'Duck' Holmes evokes the dry, hostly sounds of his mentor. But after conjuring Jack’s spirit, Holmes develops his own personality ­ ethereal, stark and emotional. I’ve never been to Bentonia, but whatever’s in the water there, whatever’s haunting the grounds at night, whatever gave the place its historical power, clearly lives on in these recordings."

- Robert Gordon, Author of It Came From Memphis and Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters

This spring, Broke & Hungry Records, a St. Louis-based independent record label dedicated to recording and releasing authentic country blues, will launch with a bang. The label’s inaugural release, Back to Bentonia by Jimmy “Duck” Holmes will undoubtedly be hailed as one of the finest traditional blues albums in recent memory.

Back to Bentonia represents the debut CD for the 58-year-old Holmes. It will be available in stores and through the label’s Web site at in April 2006.

Among serious fans of country blues, the very name Bentonia conjures up images of hard times and cypress groves, black cats and the ever-lurking devil. It was in this southern Delta town that Skip James and Jack Owens lived and played, giving rise to the term Bentonia Blues, a haunting, forlorn style of blues known the world over. When Owens died in 1997, most assumed that the Bentonia Blues died with him.

They were wrong.

In the 1970s, Owens became determined to pass the tradition forward and he enlisted a younger aspiring guitarist for the project. His disciple, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes was no stranger to the blues. He was the owner of the Blue Front Cafe, a now-famous juke joint that had been opened by his parents in 1948. And he was already a talented guitarist in his own right.

But under Owens’ tutelage, Holmes became a master of country blues. He learned to play and sing songs from the celebrated canon of James and Owens, songs like, “I’d Rather Be the Devil,” “Hard Times” and “Cherry Ball.” But he also developed his own songwriting voice, and when he coupled those songs with the Bentonia stylings of his predecessors, the effect was mesmerizing.

Yet for some reason, Holmes has remained virtually unknown in the blues world. Other than a handful of unreleased or obscure recordings, Holmes and his remarkable talent have been little more than a rumor to most blues fans.

Until now.

Recorded during two sessions in November 2005, this remarkable CD features Holmes in stunning form, both vocally and instrumentally. Like so many classic blues recordings, Back to Bentonia is dominated by tales of scornful and treacherous women, but Holmes’ lyrical nuances and haunting delivery come together to create a listening experience that is wholly his own.

The lion’s share of these tracks stem from an all-acoustic session recorded at that Blue Front Cafe on an unseasonably warm November evening. Several tracks from this session feature the legendary Bud Spires playing harp. For decades, Spires was Jack Owens’ musical partner and foil. His presence on this album only adds to its historical importance. On the album’s final track, Spires even takes a rare turn at the microphone on the rollicking “Your Buggy Don’t Ride Like Mine.”

The remaining tracks on Back to Bentonia stem from a brief recording session held at Jimbo Mathus’ Delta Recording Studio in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Equally raw and stripped down as the Blue Front tracks, these recordings nevertheless stand in stark contrast to those from the earlier session. Here the guitarist plays in a raucous amplified form to the accompaniment of the great Sam Carr on drums.

Back to Bentonia promises to be one of the most talked about blues releases of 2006 and one of the finest traditional blues albums in recent memory.

For more information on this exciting release, contact Jeff Konkel of Broke & Hungry Records by e-mail at