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Despite struggles, small-town bluesman keeps aging music alive


With callused hands, Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes plucks an old acoustic guitar at the juke joint his parents created more than 70 years ago.

He checks the cafe’s inventory: jars of pickled eggs, beef jerky, pork hocks. He tends to the wood-burning stove, made from an oil-field pipe.

And every morning, he eventually settles in on a stool behind the counter, waiting — hoping — that someone who wants to hear him play will drop in.

Holmes, 73, is the last Bentonia bluesman, the carrier of a dying musical and oral storytelling tradition born in this Mississippi town of fewer than 500 people.

And now, he’s a Grammy-nominated artist, with a recent nod in the Best Traditional Blues Album category for Cypress Grove, a record he hopes will help preserve the Bentonia blues long after he’s gone.

The world has changed around Holmes and his Blue Front Café, the country’s oldest surviving juke joint.

Holmes, 73, is the last Bentonia bluesman, the carrier of a dying musical and oral storytelling tradition born in this Mississippi town of fewer than 500 people.

And now, he’s a Grammy-nominated artist, with a recent nod in the Best Traditional Blues Album category for Cypress Grove, a record he hopes will help preserve the Bentonia blues long after he’s gone.

The world has changed around Holmes and his Blue Front Café, the country’s oldest surviving juke joint.



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