Gypsy Eyes (label)
12 October 2018 (released)
08 September 2018
A new album from Malcolm Holcombe is always an occasion that sends shivers up and down my spine.
A new collection of songs from the gravel voiced heart of the Appalachian mountains, a new set of stories and real-life situations and above all more of his magnificent dark emotive voice.
This album doesn’t disappoint in any way and from the opening number ‘Left Alone’ to the last notes of ‘Torn And Wrinkled’ I was entranced.
His characters are real, recognizable and painfully honest and the tales he winds around them are equally painful but always with a kind edge. Holcombe’s is not the voice of accusation and threat but rather love and remininscence.
Take a number such as ‘I Don’t Wanna Disappear’. A tale of a man who has worked all his life but whose usefulness has faded over time. In another’s hands it could be a diatribe, a blasting out at the world around him but here Holcombe makes you feel the sadness behind a man who still feels he could contribute but who is never seen. Iris Dement supplies a brilliant counterpoint on backing vocals, just emphasising his lyrics and vocals.
Then there is ‘Legal Tender’. Dark and painful as he describes the world of the drug addicts for whom “morphine is legal tender” and a world where drugs are rife because there is no other way of lifting yourself. Dobro and stunning percussion force focus on his words – a chilling song.
All through the album you are made to feel the history of the man and his beloved Appalachians, the futility of war and unthinking dictats from his nation’s capital. As a wordsmith he is complex and occasionally surreal but you always get the gist of what he is trying to say and he never has fripperies on his mind.
He is supported by understated but superb musicians, notably Jared Tyler on dobro & mandolin and Marco Giovino on drums and oh-so-subtle percussion.
Malcolm Holcombe is a unique talent, a rare musician who sounds unlike anyone else I have heard and this album is up there with the best of the year.