Artist: Malcolm Holcombe
Album: Another Black Hole
Label: Gypsy Eyes Music
Release Date: 02/19/2016
Engineer Ray Kennedy was as critical to Steve Earle’s success as anyone. Now Kennedy once again lends his magic to the rugged North Carolinian songsmith Malcolm Holcombe on this, Holcombe’s 14th album.
If you are familiar with Holcombe, there are not too many surprises here. He is consistent in his lyrically astute and moving words, his underrated gift for melody, his weathered, totally sincere vocals and his pure, back porch music. His players on this outing are exceptional, especially string man Jared Tyler, who plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, dobro and commands the band, with its rhythm section of Ken Coomer (Wilco) on drums and Dave Roe on bass. Swamp king Tony Joe White lends his distinctive electric guitar to three tracks, most notably the rocking “Papermill Man.” Visionary percussionist Futureman, also known as Roy Wooten, often seen with another innovator, Béla Fleck, provides touches too. Background vocalist Drea Merritt adds soul in just the right places.
Like the best Scotch, Holcombe may be an acquired taste. Once you fall into his spell, however, you can really appreciate his seemingly underrated qualities. I saw him perform live in a radio studio, and was immediately converted. Ray Kennedy expresses it best: “Malcolm Holcombe is fiercely striking every time you encounter him on or off stage. You just get sucked into his extraordinary world of the twisting of words and wisdom that come from a bottomless well. The melodies and fierce rhythms wrap his narrative into an event where you find yourself at his unique musical carnival. Then suddenly he slays you with a sweet love ballad or a sarcastic social commentary…. His gruff and tough delivery is a primordial power full of grit, spit and anthropomorphic expression.” Listen up – I challenge you to find anything more real.
– Jim Hynes