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

The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Heirloom Music (Neanderthal)

The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Heirloom Music (Neanderthal)

Jimmie Dale Gilmore possesses one of the most distinctive voices and when deployed on lachrymose ballads he can tear your heart out. But this is an odd and old time project, Gilmore out front of a... > Read more

The Eastern: Hope and Wire (Rough Peel Records/Rhythmethod)

The Eastern: Hope and Wire (Rough Peel Records/Rhythmethod)

The self-titled 09 debut and Arrows ('10) by this Christchurch band alerted many to their poetic, political and bare-knuckle country-influenced songs which sit alongside Springsteen's working... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Bapi Das Baul: Sufi Baul; Madness and Happiness (Arc)

Bapi Das Baul: Sufi Baul; Madness and Happiness (Arc)

Perhaps the only Sufi musician many are familiar with is the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, but his uplifting, sky-scaling vocals and the joyous spiritual elevation of his music might recommend this... > Read more

DARCY PERRY PROFILED (2013): Long years and hard miles

DARCY PERRY PROFILED (2013): Long years and hard miles

Because of so many other pressing commitments, Elsewhere missed acknowledging the blues journeyman Darcy Perry when he played a few shows with his band during Blue September. But he has... > Read more