Malcolm Holcombe: Gamblin' House (Borders)

 |   |  1 min read

Malcolm Holcombe: Goin' Downtown
Malcolm Holcombe: Gamblin' House (Borders)

Your first response to this gruff-voiced, whisky-stained singer-songwriter may be, "how come I haven't heard of him sooner?"
Well, diligent Elsewhere listeners may well have: he appeared on the massive and ambitious Songs of America triple set which appeared here some months back. He sang The Old Woman Taught Wisdom, a song which dates back to the 1800s -- and Holcombe can sometimes sound like he learned such songs at the time.
He looks to be in his late 30s/early 40s but possesses a remarkably weather-beaten and almost ancient voice, writes hard-edged songs, picks a mean guitar and his music has drawn comparisons with Townes Van Zandt (you hear it rarely) and Tom Waits (certainly).
With a tough acoustic band, his sometimes strangely poetic lyrics ("scratch a dirty beggar's back, preach a burnin' paper sack") have an eerie and compelling quality, there is a powerful folk-blues component at work, and you can also hear echoes of a more rundown Springsteen, a 70-year old backwoods drunk Dylan stuck in Mobile '66 again, . . . and also some genuinely moving haiku-like lyrics (Blue Flame) which indeed do suggest Van Zandt.
Holcombe grew up in a small town in the Blue Mountains of North Carolina and seems to have an intuitive connection to that old time music, but with a contemporary twist such that he can convincingly sing "don't remember all them words to That Old Rugged Cross".
Holcombe -- from the description and references here -- might sound like an amalgam of many others, but one listen to this and you'll hear that he is his own man.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Mahoney Harris: We Didn't Feel Alone (mahoneyharris)

Mahoney Harris: We Didn't Feel Alone (mahoneyharris)

At the midpoint of this debut album by Auckland singer-songwriter Mahoney Harris there is a lyric that can stop you in your tracks: just when you think you've got her pegged there is Miss You.... > Read more

Ellis Island Sound: The Good Seed (Peacefrog)

Ellis Island Sound: The Good Seed (Peacefrog)

At last! I received a preview copy of this wonderful instrumental album almost six months ago and have been waiting ever since to post it. And in that time I kept changing my mind about which... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Rod Stewart/Long John Baldry: Up Above My Head (1964)

Rod Stewart/Long John Baldry: Up Above My Head (1964)

Serious rock writers -- or more correctly, those who want to be considered serious --  will always prefer tortured artists over those who sailed along and were seen to be be enjoying... > Read more

The Dire Straits Experience, Aotea Centre, Auckland Oct 2 2014

The Dire Straits Experience, Aotea Centre, Auckland Oct 2 2014

Some time at the tail end of last century I spent a very funny evening backstage with Tina Turner, Neil Diamond and Rod Stewart. There were lots of laughs . . . although it did seem there was... > Read more