Review and photographs by Wanda Calagy
I’m Waiting is the new CD recently released by the Pittsfield-based Arthur Holmes Blues Band, offering unique guitar sounds with moving lyrics sung and written by Arthur Holmes, bolstered by a strong bass style from John Worth and rhythmic beat from drummer Brian Forfa. Former bandmate Gary Smith also adds his flair on his Hammond B2 organ to the mix.
The band’s third album tells some moving stories, with all but two selections originals, and Holmes is proud of this latest accomplishment. The beginnings of this CD started a couple of years ago.
“I enjoy songwriting,” said Holmes. “We have been playing ‘Sand Road’ out at a few gigs before the release. That song is a condensed version of my life – much of my music is.”
Holmes’ favorite tune on the album is “Crying Time.” “When you listen, you will hear how I held onto certain notes for a long time,” he added. “We were in the studio for weeks, and a couple of pieces, such as ‘I’m Waiting’ had been stuck going around inside my head forever. The first two songs came easily, though I had not laid them all right out. I’ve worked with John for years, and he is a solid bass player. Brian joined the band a little over a year ago and is a great fit. I had worked with him in the past.”
The CD starts off with a sound that demands the listener’s attention. “I’m Waiting” is a wake-up tune, motivating in many ways. Forfa’s strong back beat mixed with Worth’s bass line fills in around Holmes’ strong guitar riffs, and the lyrics basically address the politicians and government, raising questions of many today. Add this to your coffee in the morning.
“The Best of Me” is a fast-moving lament with words and chords to make the statement. The resonating guitar gives a high energy cry, with rock solid bass lines from Worth. Sexy and sad.
“Feels Like Love” adds the talented Smith with that magical organ. A song for dancing really slow. REALLY SLOW. It offers a great rhythm and lyrics filled with hope. A real trip through emotions. Good ones. Here Holmes shows that unique vocal expression of his. The chords from the keys create a nice mix with rest of the band. There’s familiarity felt.
“Crying Time” definitely shows off Holmes’ guitar skills, and many of those notes are indeed held a long time. Holmes is really someone to watch on stage, and I made a mental note to be sure to watch closely during this song the next time I see the band play live. Searing rips from Holmes are buttressed by Fiora, who lays down quite the groove here. Worth exudes that love-to-play energy. Raw energy here.
At first, “Bullet for Christmas” sounded like something that I might just skip over. To me, the words “bullet” and “Christmas” should not be used in the same sentence. But once I got past that and listened to the words, I saw a little humor there. The ‘almost starts and stops’ give it some added flavor. Along with Santa. In this piece Holmes continues to be a spitfire.
Howlin’ Wolf’s classic “Killing Floor” caught my ear right away. I wanted to look up the year and a little about this song and found a couple of books in the library, while also ordering Debra Devi’s book, “The Language of the Blues.” The Wolf has fascinated me since I first heard of him, and from Devi’s research and notes from other books much of his history, full of so many influences. In 1964, the song was released with Buddy Guy on guitar and is known as a familiar Chicago-style blues relic. The band does a great job on this one. The bass carries it strong, highlighting Holmes’ grooves.
“Sand Road” IS Arthur Holmes. It is haunting at times, and this style is welcomed. He invites one in to hear his tale, with words that are real enough to break a heart. His voice continues to deliver pure emotion, and his guitar sings it well, too. Good craftsmanship all around.
Adding a little Jimi, “Voodoo Chile” is the album’s wind-up tune. Holmes pulls this off by
displaying some intricate finger work. Blistering. Of course, the voice of the Master is all over this. Recorded by Hendrix at a studio jam in 1968 with others alongside Stevie Winwood on organ, this tune explores Jimi’s passion for the supernatural and science fiction.
I have not heard the first of this band’s CDs, but I did purchase the last two. They are packed in my auto often to listen to on road trips. I also make it a point to catch their gigs. See what you think.
Original songs written by Arthur Holmes
Production and arrangements by Arthur Holmes
Sound Engineering by Warren Ammerman of Rotary Records Inc, West Springfield
CD cover photography by Stephanie Trager
NOTE: You can catch the Arthur Holmes Blues Band live at Party in the Park at North Adams’ Noel Field at 6pm on Thursday (July 24); Summerfest on Main Street in Great Barrington at 7pm on Saturday, August 23; and at Live On the Lake at Pittsfield’s Onota Lake at 6pm on Wednesday, August 27.