There was never any doubt as to whether or not “Diamond” Jack Holdsworth of Celeste was going to be involved in music. Holdsworth’s parents were musicians, so he grew up surrounded by tunes.When it came time for him to choose his musical path, however, the Montana native said he had no options.
“I played rock, jazz, bluegrass and lots of country,” Holdsworth said during an interview at the News-Telegram. “But, then, the blues picked me. The blues stuck.”
Holdworth now plays lead guitar in the Birthright Blues Project, a group that includes his wife of eight years, “Diamond Jill” Elan Holdsworth on bass, Loren Seely on bass, Mark Chapman on drums and Jeff Anderson on rhythm guitar.
When he was in middle school, Holdsworth, a welder by trade, played in the jazz band.
“I hated it at the time,” he said. “But it was a great help. You need to understand the music.”
Holdsworth says Delta blues guitarists Robert Johnson (1911-1938) and Albert King (1923-1992) influence his style. He also likes Bo Diddley (1928-2008) and Texas legend Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990). He favors country blues over strictly country music.
“We play a lot of country blues,” he said. “I like Hank Williams, Jr. and Alan Jackson.”
Seely, who grew up in Iowa but has lived and worked in Sulphur Springs for the past 41 years, started playing the bass in 1962 on the advice of John Senn, a member of Dee Jay & the Runaways.
“John drove a forklift in the plant where I worked,” Seely said. “He was my idol. He said ‘Everyone wants to play lead guitar or be a singer, but every band needs a bass player.’ He turned me on to bass guitar.”
The group just returned from a gig at the 25th annual Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival in Helena.
“We were just below the main stage,” Holdsworth said. “I looked out at the crowd and saw the Kentucky Headhunters. They stayed around.”
Holdsworth said the group’s main purpose in attending the festival was to call attention to their talent and maybe be offered a place on the emerging artist stage next year.
“We showcased ourselves pretty good this year,” he said. “Hopefully, the doors will open.”
Diamond Jill, who grew up in Celeste, started playing with the group because Seely’s job requires a lot of travel.
“We needed a substitute bass player,” she explained. “We wanted to play at my dad’s retirement party. Loren was going to be out of town, so I just buckled down.”
Jill says she looks to James Jameson (1936-1983), the great Motown bass player, for her inspiration. The lady bass player says she’s loving her new role with the band. Although she sang Guy Clark’s “L.A. Freeway” to her son as a lullaby, she is now throughly immersed in the blues, playing Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976) every night.
“My family doesn’t completely get it, ” she said. “But I know that the blues bubbles through my veins.”
Her husband agrees.
“You don’t quit the blues,” he said. “You can’t get away from it. It’s not made up, even if it’s a fictitious song, the blues is real.”
In addition to the Blues and Heritage Festival, the Birthright Blues Project has played the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Miss. They played in Cooper last weekend and have a gig coming up on Nov. 12 at the Blue Armadillo in Greenville.
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