Since his breakthrough production of Cassandra Wilson, producer Craig Street has established a reputation as a master of mix-and-match with artists, material and supporting musicians. Here he teams with the Holmes Brothers for the most audacious accomplishment of either of their careers, one that applies their gospel harmonies to an eclectic selection of songs that all sound as if they could have been written just for them.
It isn't that much of a stretch to find the brothers Holmes turning Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding" into an irony-free secular hymn, reframed with a descending progression that recalls Bob Dylan's "If Not For You" (with steel guitar from former Dylan sideman Larry Campbell). But who could have expected to find such spiritual depth in Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me", or to hear John Fogerty's "Bad Moon Rising" recast as a Cajun two-step? As for Rosanne Cash's duet with Wendell Holmes on "I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You", Hank Williams just doesn't get any lovelier than this.
Other highlights include a couple of dips into the Lyle Lovett songbook ("If I Had A Boat" and "God Will"), a rousing call-and-response with Joan Osborne on "These Memories Of You", and father-and-daughter support from Levon and Amy Helm. Holmes Brothers originals -- from the southern soul groove of the opener "Smiling Face Hiding A Weeping Heart" to the down-home funk of "Gasoline Drawers" to the bluesy "Standing In The Need Of Love" -- showcase not only the vocal grit of Wendell Holmes, but his under-heralded guitar playing as well. The result is one terrific album.