Bruce Holmes

Bruce Holmes


Songs capturing the complexities of life with honesty, kindness and humor. All three members have strong Celtic influences. A cross between Warren Zevon and Jethro Tull. First CD on over 200 stations, second charted at #34. To view calendar or learn more go to


The Bruce Holmes trio believes in sing-alongs, funny stories, and creating community. We sings about the thrill of lust, the depth of love and how silly life can get.
Bruce’s influences are many. He loves Celtic music, so in addition to guitar, he plays the concertina and bouzouki. He sings Sacred Harp, and you’ll hear some unusual harmonies in his music. He’s studied flat-picking with the bluegrass folks. And he grew up on rock & roll so you’ll hear a touch of the Byrds or Jethro Tull in his music. But he’s also got stories to tell, so he wants the vocals high in the mix. At heart he’s a folk singer who loves a good story. And a lifetime of stories is shared in his songs.
Holmes has spent most of his life teaching. He’s taught everything from Aikido to folk dancing to juggling to chess (he was the coach for Oakton Chess, Illinois State Champions in 1993 and 1994). He’s the author of Anvil of the Heart, a science fiction novel that made the Locus recommended reading list for 1984. He also created a 24 cassette series on the Feldenkrais Method that is used all around the globe.
His first CD, Life’s An Intelligence Test, resonates with a lifetime of musical influences. It has been adopted for airplay by over 200 radio stations. (Radio Teutoburger Wald in Germany called it “a masterpiece of acoustic music.”) Half the songs from the CD have been honored in some way including a 2nd Place and 3rd Place in the 2006 Great Lakes Songwriting Competition. In 2007 he was selected as one of five Finalists in the Texas Songwriters’ Serenade. In 2008 he won the annual Talent Show at the Coffee House in Milwaukee. His second CD, The Old King's Reel, is on the folk charts at #34. You can hear the music at



Written By: Bruce Holmes

God grant you grace and a love that will last
Children and friends through the years
Hold on to hope when the skies overcast
Treasure both laughter and tears

Shine shine through it all
Rise rise when you fall
Take all life offers the sun and the rain
Cherish the joy and the pain

Think of the friends who stood by through the years
Lifelines you called in the night
Shoulders you'd cry on who'd not mind the tears
Someday you'll all reunite
Shine shine through it all...

May you find someone who loves all you are
Someone to hold in the night
Love with your passion and love with your heart
Dance till they turn out the lights
Time time finds us all
Shine shine till they call
Take all life offers the sun and the rain
Cherish the joy and the pain

We Were A Family

Written By: Bruce Holmes

I searched for years
And found a girl who danced on air
I was amazed
How much I cared

Forget the fears
We joined together for all time
She called me hers
I called her mine

And we were a family...

And then they come
Their small feet pounding down the hall
With beating drums
And Barbie Dolls

You do feel blessed
You read them Goodnight Moon again
And then again
And then again

And we were a family...

The kids are grown
I call them up, not much to tell
They don't need me
They're doing well

My beauty's gone
She found herself another man
Now I get on
The best I can

The air you breathe
The love around you in the night
These genes you weave
The thread of life

Belonging ends
A smoke ring wisping in the wind
The fading friends
The end begins

And we were a family...

Life's An Intelligence Test

Written By: Bruce Holmes

You got you a tongue stud and a teensy infection
Your teeth keep on cracking, do you see a connection?
Your dentist is stupid and you know what’s best
Life’s an intelligence test.

Life’s an intelligence test, boys
Life’s an intelligence test.
Who would have guessed
we’re as dumb as the rest
Life’s an intelligence test, boys
Life’s an intelligence test.

Your friend says she likes you, but kissing is out
“I’m not into licking out ashtrays,” she pouts
But the nicotine’s needed to keep you depressed
Life’s an intelligence test.

You smoke all that pot, yeah you one groovy guy
You happy all day and you never know why
You used to be brilliant, now who could have guessed
Life’s an intelligence test.

Your toes are complaining, they black and they blue
Your shoes are all pointed, your foot should be too
You just want to look nice, you dress with the best
Life’s an intelligence test.

So Beautiful

Written By: Bruce Holmes

Preoccupied with work he rarely made it to the gym downtown
So he had the tailor let his trousers out just one more round
A C.P.A. who rarely spoke
Who never seemed to get the joke

His wife she never thought to mind, she had her charities and balls
He let her dress him up sometimes and went with her to banquet halls
He tried to smile, he tried to please
He tried to hide his deep unease

One night at Hilton House he dined alone avoiding pleasantries
An angel smiled his way and asked if he would like some company
He barely breathed, she prattled on
She liked big men, that turned her on

She took his hand, he took a room, he couldn’t think why he’d been blessed
She unbuttoned all the buttons placed his hand upon her yielding breast
He almost cried, this empty stone
The kindest gift he’d ever known

She was so beautiful
The softest skin, the swelling arc
The valleys deeper than your heart
She was so beautiful
To yearn, to ache, to melt inside
To fall into the great divide

They carried on for several years, she never needed ecstasy
The money wasn’t all that steep, he paid her bills and law school fees
He’d come for lunch, then quick to bed
Rush back to work, she’d shake the spread

She passed the bar, he bought a gift, but found she’d left without a trace
He wandered through the empty rooms with tears cascading down his face
He found a sock behind a door
And cherished it for evermore
The years passed on in memory and then one day the cancer struck
He tried the net but couldn’t find her, no way to get back in touch
The chemo failed, the cancer spread
He withered in the snow-white bed

His wife could only wonder at the sock clutched in his bony fist
He never said good-bye to her just shriveled up, he wasn’t missed
And hiding from the endless pain
Just one last memory remained

Fields Of Wheat

Written By: Bruce Holmes

Once again the cries are choked
The hurt, the maimed, the dying
The shattered glass, the acrid smoke
Is somewhere satisfying
Somewhere you are pleased and proud
You’ve spread your pain around
But did you do, did you do any good?

Did you nurse a wounded child?
Did you let the homeless in?
Did you listen when they cried?
Did you call all men your kin?
Did you feed a hungry world?
Did you give the chained release?
Did you keep your banners furled?
Did you say a prayer for peace?
Did you find a cure for hate?
Make the world a kinder place?
Did the seeds you sowed become the fields of wheat?

So you made a great big bang
And there’s blood upon the coals
You and all your righteous gang
Have killed some gentle souls
Do you think God loves this thing you’ve done?
Would you love a God that could?
But did you do, did you do any good?

Does heaven care which prayer resounds?
Do you think there’s war above?
All God knows and all that counts:
Were you an instrument of love?

The Old King's Reel

Written By: Bruce Holmes

The Old King came
Riding through the solstice fair
Heard a sound and turned to stare
The heart lays claim
An impish smile, a maiden there
Laughing in the summer air
A spark turned flame
Swelling breast and bouncing hair
The breath of spring and not a care
He asked her name
She chortled, “Me? The Smithy’s daughter?
Surely I’m not worth the bother.”

Old King, withering
Thought to steal the scent of spring
Castle cold, winter’s bones
Stone walls where the moor winds moan
Young heart, stolen art
Made him greedy, lost and needy
They’re laughing even as they kneel
Play for me the Old King’s Reel

He rode the miles
Off to buy his heart’s desire
Found the Smithy at his fire
The Old King smiled
Told him he’d be Earl of somesuch
After “Earl” the Smithy’s ears buzzed
Talk all the while
Something ‘bout a modest castle
Lands and sheep and even vassals
The Smithy smiled
All this and his witless daughter
Soon a queen and wearing fox fur

The Old King lame
Despite his lands and knights and gold
His hands and feet are ever cold
A spark needs flame
He shouts and has the fire lit
And orders her to sit a bit
It’s all the same
She stitches her embroidery
Her face a mask of misery
His empty claim
He hears her in her bedroom bawling
He overhears the whispers walking
The Old King’s shame
All in court have heard the joke
Seems every page has had a poke

One Love To Last

Written By: Bruce Holmes

Sights on the hunter’s game
Deer that were almost tame
One leaps and falls
Wounded it cries in pain
Helpless I am the same
Torn by it all
She’s gone

Here it comes again
The wheel that knows no end
I tell my heart hold fast
I want one love to last

Healing a wounded wing
Teaching a bird to sing
Setting it free
Sleepless since she’s been gone
Wondering what went wrong
Letting it be


Is there something wrong with me
Is there something I don’t see


Written By: Bruce Holmes

On this day celebrate for a life lived true
All the mornings you rose with the dawning dew
In the early morning air
With adventure everywhere
The discipline and thrill in what you do
There is joy in this
And endorphin bliss
There’s a hero’s bed you may lay upon
If you give your best
You’ll have earned your rest
Here in the dream of the marathon

You are psyched, fortified, at the starter’s blast
Racing long, keep your calm, don’t go out too fast
You’ll feel strong at the start
Before things fall apart
That bounce in your step isn’t bound to last
You’ll soon face the wall
Your pace slows to crawl
There’s an ache in your joints as you struggle on
Ev’ry painful step
Ev’ry weary breath
Deep in the heart of the marathon

There are times in a life when the blazing sun
Saps your strength, courage fades in confusion
No more wings on your feet
Only weight in the heat
And you pray for the heart of a champion
But you’ve run this race
For a thousand days
You have carved out a will that can carry on
Now your time has come
Those old doubts undone
Here in the fields of the marathon

Oh the hurt that life brings is a transient thing
You have chosen a way of remembering
These are seeds you have sown
It’s a heart that has grown
There is steel in your legs for awakening
When this race is run
When your life is done
You will cherish the mem’ry of ever on
Long this pride will grow
And you’ll always know
You chose the life of the marathon

Let It Burn

Written By: Bruce Holmes

We share a bed and kisses
The morning peck, goodbye, hello
I live a life of wishes
And wonder where does passion go

While holding hands by TV light
We watch the lovers risk it all
We brush our teeth, quick kiss goodnight
And turn our bodies to the wall

If you want me, where and when
If you don’t then, don’t pretend
If you love me, say the words
If you can’t then, let it burn

Last night I heard you laughing
Your sister called, a smile appeared
Was I ever that enchanting?
I don’t know why you want me here

I ache to make you laugh again
To share a wet and urgent kiss
Instead I think of leaving and
Convince myself I won’t be missed


You need a hug and
Stand before me
Arms across your chest
And wait for me to fathom what comes next


But then again, I might have known
The porch light’s on when I get home

These Secrets

Written By: Bruce Holmes

Forgive your mother’s third degree
Life’s lessons landing hard
You think you’ve disappointed me
Your tears just burn my heart

It’s not what I would choose for you
It’s dangerous and dark
But no one’s harmed by what you do
Unless it stains your heart

These secrets we hide are just things people do
Your shame just as foolish as mine
I am what I am what I am sang the fool
And we’re all of us doing just fine

In time this hurt is bound to pass
Not pain nor pleasure last
But I will always cherish you
That’s all I know to do


We last as long as shooting stars
That burn ashamed to fall
We’re all just flawed imperfect hearts
Who stumble at the ball



The Old King's Reel (2008), 14 songs. Charting at #34 on the Folk DJ Chart
Life's An Intelligence Test (2006), 14 songs, one by Bob Dylan, the rest by Holmes. Picked up by over 200 radio stations.

Set List

I've got about 3 hours of material that's solid, after that I either start repeating myself or I'm into the less well rehearsed material. 95% of what I do is original.
El Viento Del Diablo
Life’s An Intelligence Test
When The Winds Return
Plague Ship
So Beautiful
I Do
Fields Of Wheat
God's Rules
One Love To Last
We Were A Family
You Just Might Lose
Long Vegas Night
I Believe In You
Life Is Hard And Then You Die
Not The Nightgown
I Would Be With You
When The Ship Comes In (Dylan)
The Water Is Wide (Trad)
Shenendoah (Trad)
Soalin (Trad)
I Do Like You
The Old King's Reel
The Orgy Song