“Ain’t gonna let no terrorist turn me around,” sang Sherman Holmes and George Kilby Jr., giving a new twist to the old spiritual at the Black Potatoe Music Festival in Clinton, Friday night.
Two of the three members of the great soul-gospel-rock trio The Holmes Brothers — singer-guitarist Wendell Holmes, and singer-drummer Popsy Dixon — died last year. But singer-bassist Sherman Holmes has formed a promising new partnership with Kilby, a longtime fixture of the New York/New Jersey blues scene, and showcased it at the festival, with Sam Doyle on percussion and backing vocals. Kilby also mentioned, between songs, that he and Holmes are working on a joint album.
Highlights included a cover of Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat” (memorably covered by The Holmes Brothers) and the gospel song “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me,” but the set was firmly rooted in the present, with more recent original material that addressed topics such as police violence, religious intolerance, and the environment. The best thing about the set, though, was the vocal blend — which had a slightly gruff but richly emotional quality, somewhat reminiscent of what The Holmes Brothers themselves were able to achieve.
Holmes and Kilby had appeared at Black Potatoe before, separately, as have most of artists who have been booked for the fest, which continues through Sunday. (See schedule below). Founder Matt “Angus” Williams announced, during the set by Electric Gumbo on Friday, that five of the band’s six members had performed, with other groups, at the first Black Potatoe festival, 20 years ago.
While the frequently wistful singer-songwriter James Maddock closed out opening night of the festival, Wednesday, Thursday’s and Friday’s headliners were harder-edged, with Sarah Borges playing raw rock with, often, a rockabilly flavor, on Thursday, and virtuoso guitarist Chris Bergson playing hardcore blues on Friday.
Saturday’s show will be headlined by Black Potatoe’s traditional Saturday night headliner — Williams’ band, The Matt Angus Thing — and Ellis Paul will close on Sunday after a set by New Jersey blues legend Billy Hector.
One more thing: Borges mentioned how cool it was, Thursday, that all of that day’s bands were women, or women-fronted bands. She also appreciated, she said, the fact that “No one has brought it up, because we’re all just bands, and not just girls.”
Thursday was not wildly different from the rest of the festival: Nearly half of its 44 acts are female singer-songwriters or women-fronted bands. It’s not unusual for a music festival to book only a token woman or two, but Black Potatoe has featured a lot of women through the years. Though, as Borges noted, it doesn’t make a big deal about it.
Here is the schedule for the remainder of the festival, which takes place on two stages on the grounds of the Red Mill Museum. For information, visit blackpotatoe.com.
12:30 p.m.: Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes
2 p.m.: Blue Light Bandits
3:30 p.m.: The Partners
5 p.m.: Shannon Söderlund
6:30 p.m.: Brent and Co.
8 p.m.: Willy Porter
9:30 p.m.: The Matt Angus Thing
Noon: The Collins Brothers Band
1:30 p.m.: Sid Whelan
3 p.m.: Mike Montrey Band
4:30 p.m.: The Caren Kennedy Trio
6 p.m.: Jessy Tomsko
7:30 p.m.: KC Cary
9 p.m.: Evangeline Joy
12:25 p.m.: Jack Tannehill and Renee Paddock
1:30 p.m.: Sharar Sisters
2:45 p.m.: Kathy Phillips
4 p.m.: Gregg Cagno
5:30 p.m.: Billy Hector Band
7 p.m.: Ellis Paul
Noon: Donna Sparacio
1 p.m.: Cliff Hillis
2:15 p.m.: Jean Rohe
3:30 p.m.: Diana Zinni
5 p.m.: American Beauties
6:30 p.m.: Jann Klose
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