Down the River MALCOLM HOLCOMBE
Holcombe—a mysterious, high wire Western North Carolina soul—is a songwriter’s songwriter, a lyrical giant. Rolling Stones’ David Fricke took keen notice in stating, “not quite country, somewhere beyond folk, Holcombe’s music is a kind of blues in motion, mapping backwoods corners of the heart.”
What also stands out is his percussive, ultra-expressive guitar plucking and a raspy, breathy baritone that would scare Tom Waits. With guitar and voice in the foreground, songs are textured with selective rises of pedal steel, dobro, fiddle and other roots instruments, extending beyond his early minimalist recordings. On country-blues number “White Wash Job,” you get insight into one of his favorite subjects, “People on the streets no where to go/Mobile homes in fields sittin’ empty I know/Ping-Pong paddles, black water come and getcha/People need a house bill not a DC do-little.”
Self-released Down the River, his ninth, surprisingly steps into heavy hitter land. Guests include multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott, drummer Ken Coomer, and vocalists Kim Richey, Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle, among many others. This is meaningful set of songs that would likely be stronger without so many “special” guests. Newbies to Holcombe should reference his poetic masterpiece from 1999, A Hundred Lies.