It was as if Jerry Holland came back from the grave to say he was in a better place now and that he had one more gift for those he left behind.
Even as he battled cancer in the past few years, somehow his music still managed to remain as incredible, including one last collaboration that will be talked about for years. With the release of a new CD last week, Helping Hands, featuring Holland and Dublin guitarist John Doyle up in Cape Breton as part of the 2009 Celtic Colours International Festival, his sizeable legacy will have one more fantastic chapter.
The title comes from his last composition appearing on the new CD recorded just a few weeks before he died as a way of acknowledging all those fellow musicians, friends and fans who were there for him in the remaining days of his life.
Holland summoned up enough strength to record 18 tracks with Doyle, who flew to Cape Breton to complete the project last June which documented one of the more dynamic performance duets in recent years in Celtic music.
In 2006 special sparks flew when Holland and Doyle sat and played inventively across from one another at the Swannanoa gathering in Doyle’s adopted home of Asheville, North Carolina, and again at the Celtic Colours International Festival club in Holland’s Cape Breton Island homeplace.
At Boston’s 2008 ICONS Festival, three weekend gigs cemented their pairing as one of the most exciting and complimentary acts, encouraging them to do a recording together as soon as possible before Jerry’s time had come to leave us.
Not only were the live performances technically and artistically brilliant, but the pure joy and camaraderie that passed between Holland and Doyle was both magic and escapist when considering the fierce battle that Jerry was waging against the disease where music and friendship were his best allies.
Long time friends Paul MacDonald and Paul Cranford help shepherd the project into final production, and the liner notes reflect not only Holland’s role as a tradition bearer but a final thank you to all those who shared the music with him during his long-distinguished career.
The new CD can be ordered from Jerry Holland Jr. at www.jerryhollandjr.net.