Malcolm Holcombe. Pitiful Blues.

Another North Carolina resident and another slice of raw country, this time from Malcolm Holcombe who has ditched the star studded line up of his last album (Down The River) and along with producer and Dobro player Jared Tylor delivered a raw set recorded live in his home studio with accompaniment on double bass, fiddle and occasional drums. It’s a warm, organic, stubbly recording, you can hear the scrape of hands on fret boards, feet hitting the floor, all that’s missing is a crackling fire and crickets. What’s not missing is the raw growl and gurn that is Holcombe’s voice. Worn, weary, hoarse, take your pick, he sounds the way Townes Van Zandt was going towards the end, he sounds like the blind character played by Levon Helm in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, he sounds like a Grizzly Bear.

The songs here are uniformly excellent. There’s some toe tappin’ high jinks on Another Despair, Words Of December is a very fine and nimble Appalachian styled number while the opening title song resonates with biblical vengeance. Savannah Blues finds Holcombe as an ancient sounding narrator, bones aching and singing from beyond the grave in a cold and lonely bed following a Yellow Fever outbreak, the music is suitably spooky and atmospheric. The Music Plays On is more up to date celebrating baseball with a nod to another North Carolina musician, Mark Germino. Here Holcombe recalls the likes of john Prine and Guy Clark with the song a fine acoustic country blues with Taylor’s Dobro prominent. The closing For The Love Of A Child is an excellent meditation on regret for past wild times now redeemed with a shared responsibility in the shape of a kid. Here and throughout the album the music is warm as guitar, Dobro, bass and drums fuse into an organic whole which is heart warming and comforting.


Here’s Holcombe singing Pitiful Blues on Dublin’s Balcony TV.


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