Moors Magazine (NL) - March 20th, 2017

Als je hem op de foto ziet staan naast Darrell Scott zie je pas goed hij breekbaar en fragiel Malcolm Holcombe oogt. Ook als je de man ziet optreden valt het elke keer op dat hij bijna uit elkaar valt van ellende – kromgebogen over zijn gitaar, met de uitstraling van een junkie of een zware alcoholist. Maar dan gaat hij spelen en zingen, en dan raak je al snel onder de indruk van de liedjes die deze man schrijft en speelt. Hij zingt soepel en jazzy en zijn teksten zijn intelligent en raak. En ook zijn gitaarspel is verrassend anders en goed.

Zijn nieuwe, inmiddels al vijftiende, studioalbum werd geproduceerd door niemand minder dan Darrell Scott, die Holcombe hoog heeft zitten als liedjesschrijver. Holcombe is niet wat je noemt een “mooie” zanger met zijn roestige bariton, maar het is wel een stem die bij je binnenkomt, en hij zingt op een zelfde relaxte manier als een Tom Waits of JJ Cale dat ook konden, een beetje gruizig, ruw aan de randjes, maar tegelijkertijd ontspannen.

Naast Darrell Scott, die af en toe een tweede stem levert maar die ook een heel arsenaal aan instrumenten bespeelt hoor je hier nog meer topmuzikanten, als Jared Tyler op mandoline en dobro, Verlon Thompson op gitaar, de onvolprezen Kenny Malone op percussie, Jelly Roll Johnson op mondharmonica, Mike McColdrick op Ullean pipes en fluiten en Joey Miskulin op accordeon. En dan heb ik ze nieteens allemaal genoemd. Het mooie is dat Holcombe dan tussen de bedrijven door in één nummer laat horen dat hij het alleen met zijn gitaar soms ook heel goed af kan, want dat ene nummer is dan op dat moment wel zo indrukwekkend. Maar die arrangementen met band pakken toch ook wel heel erg goed uit, moet ik zeggen. Topalbum, met sublieme liedjes. Er zit geen zwak moment tussen.

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If you see him in the picture next to Darrell Scott see only good he looks Malcolm Holcombe brittle and fragile. Even if you see the man falls occur every time that he almost falls apart in misery - hunched over his guitar, with the look of a junkie or a heavy alcoholic. But then he is going to play and sing, and then tap quickly impressed by the songs and writes this man play. He sings smooth and jazzy, and his lyrics are intelligent and touch. And his guitar playing is surprisingly different and good. His new, already fifteenth studio album was produced by none other than Darrell Scott, which has high Holcombe sit as a songwriter. Holcombe is not what you call a "nice" singer with his rusty baritone, but it is a voice that comes from you, and he sings in the same relaxed manner as a Tom Waits or JJ Cale it could, a little gritty, rough around the edges, yet relaxed. Besides Darrell Scott, who occasionally a second voice yields but also an arsenal of instruments playing, you hear more musicians here, as Jared Tyler on mandolin and dobro, Verlon Thompson on guitar, the unsurpassed Kenny Malone on percussion, Jelly Roll Johnson on harmonica, Mike McColdrick on Ullean pipes and flutes and Joey Miskulin on accordion. And then I called all of them disagree. The beauty is that Holcombe than between times in one song proves that he can make some very good it alone with his guitar, for that one song or so impressive at the time. But the suits arrangements band yet also very good, I must say. Top album with sublime songs. There is no weak point in between.

Rocking Magpie - March 30th, 2017

Raw and Defiantly Authentic Country-Blues.

I can’t remember how long ago it was when I first ‘discovered’ Malcolm Holcombe; but I do remember it was a Jumping Hot Club upstairs in the Central Bar, Gateshead when the room was littered with a handful of regulars who hung on every single word and note that came from the stage.

I was so smitten with the singer-songwriter I actually borrowed £5 from the promoter to go towards me buying the album Malcolm had for sale.

To be kind to the man from Carolina he has a voice and dress sense that only a Mother…..or me could love; just ask Mrs. Magpie!

I digress; let’s get onto PRETTY LITTLE TROUBLES Malcolm’s 15th album.

Some rather funky bass-lines and timpani unusually open the first track Crippled Point O’View; but it doesn’t take long for that trademark rasp and some wheezing harmonica from Jelly Roll Johnson to filter from the office speakers and Malcolm offers a rye and rueful view on these ‘tired and troubled times.’ Not exactly a protest song as such; it’s well worth listening to and, unless you are a flag waving patriot you will sadly find yourself nodding in agreement to many of of his all too keen observations on the state of the world.

When you listen to songs like Rocky Ground and Damn Weeds it’s difficult to pigeon hole Malcolm Holcombe, as he’s certainly a Folk Singer, but this is Classic Hill Music which pre-dates Bluegrass and damn sure this guy has the Blues.

The title track Pretty Little Troubles is as sweet as Malcolm Holcombe gets; but peel away the layers and you will yet another sharp and darkly witty observation on the times we find ourselves in.
As a ‘Troubadour’ Malcolm isn’t afraid to delve into the past to give you a history lesson that needs to be considered by the likes of us but repeated to future generations; Good Ole Days is a prime case in point, but you can delve deep into his back catalogue for other razor sharp examples. Here he uses the phrase ‘Good Ole Days’ and a jaunty finger picked guitar lick to draw you in to a story of a coal miner who worked with no labour laws and had seven children, of which many died of diseases associated with poverty! I listened again to this song the day President Trump promised to revive coal mining in the USA as part of his ‘Make America Great’ strategy…….perhaps someone should hack his iPhone and make this song Putin’s ringtone.

While I’m on that subject the final song on the album We Struggle is the type of restrained fury that we normally associate with Bob Dylan’s first 3 or 4 albums; but is needed in 2017 more than ever. Listen to it on headphones and it will break your heart in two.

Malcolm’s songs are always intriguing, especially the ones based on his own experiences, such is the case with Bury, England. A tale of touring hundreds of miles from home and turning up in a small town in the North of England, but it could be Nowheresville Anywhere. The intimate detail in the lyrics will bring rye smiles from British fans, and musicians all over the world.

The Eyes of Josephine finds Malcolm rediscovering his Celtic Roots, on a romantic ballad that is a timelessly beautiful Folk ballad at its heart.

As a ‘fan boy’ I’ve particularly liked Malcolm’s recent releases as he’s found some producers who are sensitive to his own particular needs…..especially his voice; which has always been brittle and worn. For long parts of his concerts you find yourself leaning forward to hear him as he can sing in barely a gruff whisper.

Without too much studio witchcraft Darrell Scott brings out a wonderful warmth and depth to that larynx on Rocky Ground and the raw to the bone Yours No More but especially on my favourite song here; and one more than worthy of inclusion on any future Best Of album……The Sky Stood Still. For once I’m lost for words as to how to describe it…..hey; buy the album and tell me I’m wrong.

Please, if you’ve got this far at the very least find Malcolm Holcombe on one of those streaming sites and I’m 99% sure you will find yourself buying something of his; and this is a damn good place to start!

Released May 26th UK & Europe
Released April 7th USA & Canada

Dirty Rock - March 24, 2017

BY   CARLOS PEREZ BÁEZ     DISCS 24 March, 2017

Malcolm Holcombe published "Pretty Little Troubles", sixteenth studio album produced by Darrell Scott and Brian Brinkerhoff and recorded at The Sanctuary and Hippie Jack's studios Crawford, Tennessee, disc will be available on April 7 in the US and May 26 in Europe after Another Black Hole, released last year, which helped the legendary singer, songwriter and guitarist Tony Joe White  produced by Ray Kennedy and Brian Brinkerhoff in the studios of Nashville Room & Board Studios.

Malcolm Holcombe It offers his new album to dreams, tears and sweat of those refugees and migrants who fought for a better life through the bus of the American witnessing firsthand their particular adversities, poetry and metaphors that contain not only love and fury but toward despair, a cry to those vulnerable in today's society and their suffering.

Malcolm, composer, singer and American guitarist in his deep, raspy voice from North Carolina, famous Appalachians in which the air passes through the lungs burned by millions of cigarettes and a soul that has been broken by a series of personal tragedies due to drugs and alcohol, and that does not forget on this album of first Irish settlers who came to the United States, those empty stomachs and almost rotten bottle through the strumming of his guitar like wire.

His particular of the American Bus continues traveling through a rocky highway these miseries, which is located at each stop blind, thieves, alcoholics, babies, hearts of glass and miserable poor with poison in their pockets. Life as a roulette theater, misery always in his pockets. Is "Pretty Little Troubles" the story of life, dreams and broken hearts, of the weaknesses of the human species, in which you never have time for regret or nostalgia.

The great poet of the 21st century, Malcolm Holcombe, always has a smile in his pocket, in the fire of the sun going down every night, hitting continuously and other strokes. Magnetism pure and unsullied truth. discazo "Pretty Little Troubles" Mr. Holcombe, record we've been lucky enough to hear. One of the best works of 2017.

Malcolm Holcombe was accompanied for this record "Pretty Little Troubles" of musicians and producer Darrel Scott himself, his habitual Jared Tyler, Verlon Thompson, Marco Giovo, Dennis Crouch, Joey Miskulin, Kenny Malone, Jelly Roll Johnson, Mike McGoldrick, and Jonathan Yudkin.

Malcolm Holcombe began playing in a Country training in North Carolina, until he decided to go to Nashville to write songs, making this city one of the best underground composers in the early nineties with his usual softened moans with his poetry Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams consider him the best songwriter in recent years, making his first album for a major label in 1999 entitled "A Hundred Lies" before debut with "A Far Cry From Here" (1994).

List of songs from the new album Malcolm Holcombe   "Pretty Little Troubles"

1. Crippled Point O 'View
2. Yours No More
3. Good Ole Days
4. Outta Luck
5. South Hampton Street
6. Rocky Ground
7. Pretty Little Troubles
8. Bury, England
9. Damn Weeds
10. The Eyes O 'Josephine
11. The Sky Stood Still
12. We Struggle

Americana UK - May 3rd 2016

Sincere and authentic songs from a seasoned artist
— Andrew Higgins, Americana UK

'Another Black Hole' is the fourteenth album by Malcolm Holcombe. It brings together a fine group of musicians to deliver an accomplished set of songs. It walks that fine tightrope between being both new and familiar at the same time. There is a sincerity and depth to Holcombe's acerbic and incisive lyrics, delivered in a growling, sometimes even guttural way. It’s refreshing to hear the breath and life of Holcombe’s delivery, testimony to some fantastic production work by Ray Kennedy. Sometimes it is like Holcombe is sat on your shoulder, singing just for you.

Throughout the album, right from the opening track 'Sweet Georgia Brown', the playing is top notch with a swing and groove that shows a closeness and understanding between Holcombe's musical companions. You don't get to sound this effortless without a shed load of work and this feels like the real deal: musicians who love to play as a unit, working for the sake of the song, not individual virtuosity. Holcombe’s style might not be everyone's cup of tea perhaps, but as he sings..."The radio plays for the happy go lucky, that ain't my set of wheels".

Holcombe is playing a few dates in UK and Ireland in May, with long time compatriot, Jared Tyler, who features strongly on Another Black Hole. This reviewer has already bought his ticket and is looking forward to seeing the live rendition of some great songs.

Andrew Higgins - April 2016

Malcolm Holcombe – new album and tour

Malcolm Holcombe

In the end, who can explain the secret of endurance? Why does one marriage last and another does not? Why does one song or album catch our ear while others, arguably as good, slip past us? What convinces an artist or musician to continue pursuing the craft in a time of audiences with short attention spans and diminishing financial returns?

On the eve of releasing Another Black Hole, his fourteenth album (including a duet album cut with North Carolina music legend Sam Milner back in the 80s), Malcolm Holcombe is in no mood to ponder such things. “They’re free to like it or change the CD or completely ignore it,” he says over the telephone from New Haven, CT. “It all depends on how bad their conscience is.”

Those who have paid attention to Holcombe’s music will find more of what they expect here: Holcombe’s rasping vocals and bright, percussive guitar accentuating his insightful lyrics. A few of Holcombe’s longtime musical compatriots show up to help him out, most notably Jared Tyler, who plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, dobro and offers background harmonies and rock solid rhythm section David Roe on bass and Ken Coomer on drums. Swamp pop legend Tony Joe White plays electric guitar on a number of cuts, including the hard rocking ‘Papermill Man’, and the visionary percussionist Futureman, also known as Roy Wooten, inventor of the drumitar, lends percussion on several cuts. Drea Merritt drops by to sing harmonies as well.

Last year, Holcombe released The RCA Sessions, a retrospective of his two decades of recordings. For most of this time, Malcolm has handled his own career from his hometown of Swannanoa, NC, a few miles down the road from Weaverville, where he was born in 1955. Another Black Hole does not indicate a change of direction for Holcombe, only a widening and deepening of the groove he has worked for most of his years playing and singing. Lyrically, the songs mingle Holcombe’s off the cuff wisdom and sharp-eyed commentary on the human condition. Without staking a political or spiritual position, Holcombe’s songs make it clear that he sees his place with those who suffer at the end of the “suits and ties in the cubicles”, as he sings in ‘To Get By’. But because he sees things in human terms and in the terms of survival, Holcombe heads down to “Rice’s Grocery down on Main Street/ We got credit there.”

Ray Kennedy, who has produced several of Malcolm’s albums, including Another Black Hole, says,

“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.”
In ‘Leavin’ Anna’, Holcombe croons “A working man’s a working man/ Makes the flowers grow.” The labourers, the displaced, the papermill worker, the man who spends “nickels and dimes like hundred dollar bills”, these are Malcolm Holcombe’s people and the ones who live in his songs. But he is far less interested in talking about his own songs than in talking about other musicians whose names come up in the course of a conversation.

When country singing legend Don Williams is mentioned, Malcolm says, “I used to listen to that Portrait album all the time”, and asks if Williams played a couple of his more popular songs in a recent concert. He also speaks fondly of Les Paul and, later, of Keith Richards: “He’s rock and roll all day long, ain’t he?”

Recently Warren Haynes, another musician native to western North Carolina, has mentioned Malcolm’s name in interviews. Typically, Holcombe was unaware of this, but filled with praise for Haynes.

“He’s a real gentleman. I’m glad to call him a friend”, he says. “He taught me how to bend a string on a guitar.”
Chances are that Another Black Hole will not be mentioned at Grammy time, but it is a strong addition to an ever-strengthening catalogue of music made by a humble craftsman in western North Carolina. “It is Malcolm’s perception of the world that make his songs hit you like a gunpowder blast. His gruff and tough delivery is a primordial power full of grit, spit and anthropomorphic expression”, says Ray Kennedy. Trends come and go. What is real is the ground beneath our feet, the sky above us, the struggle to earn a living. These are Malcolm Holcombe’s timeless subjects and the spin he puts on them makes our journey here more bearable.

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website:

The Telegraph - March 11, 2016

Best Country Music Albums of 2016

With his raspy voice and gritty songwriting, Malcolm Holcombe reeks of authentic Americana. I liked To Get By, an ironic lamentation on the American Dream. Jared Tyler offers fine support on guitar and Drea Merritt serves up some lovely vocal harmonies. September is a bleak talking song but the highlight is Another Black Hole, with the lines "the radio plays for the happy-go-lucky/That ain't my set o' wheels."  ★★★☆☆

American Roots UK - March 2016

As the New Year gets into its stride it's an early start for what will inevitably be one of 2016s highlights. For many years now every new release from Malcolm Holcombe has been anticipated as perhaps his best ever and maybe even his career defining album? Such was the case with this tremendous recording that has all of his usual hallmarks of high quality writing, hugely evocative vocals, exquisite melodies and an all round edginess that whilst natural to this man, is something few others can achieve. It's only when you perhaps listen to some of his other recent albums that you realize that it is not so much a case of being his best or 'career defining' but is actually more a question of maintaining a peerless standard that you can't help but feel is not really humanly possible!

We all talk about genres of music and the difficulty with some albums of trying to give the record buyer a comparison that will help them decide on whether to purchase a recording (or not!) but as with his considerable back catalogue there is no other artist that Malcolm can be compared to. Certainly there is a lot of country music, blues, folk and probably much more, even including on occasions a little old timey 'front porch' music in what he does. The problem with giving him a label is that all of these various genres are mixed together in varying degrees with perhaps individual songs leaning a little closer to one genre or another but never exclusively so making it impossible to slot him into a nice comfortable genre.

It is obvious to his ever increasing band of listeners that Malcolm is a man who writes without any thought of genre, simply getting his often poetic story songs, many of them cloaked in darkness, out to the listener and leaving any labelling up to them. His style is completely natural and totally lacking in any artifice ensuring he is not only unique but also powerfully compelling, dredging sympathy out of the listener that most other vaguely similar artists struggle to get anywhere near. He has the ability to write appealing, memorable melodies that often have a lovely light feel and amalgamate them with some deep dark, but thoughtful, lyrics with his always raw vocal style contrasting beautifully with those melodies.

Malcolm wrote all ten of the songs on this album that vary from hard hitting darkness to tender ballads, all composed with his usual blend of extraordinary descriptive writing and high quality literacy. Whilst he is not an avid user of metaphor, some of his songs can take time to unravel and it is that which adds depth to the recording and repays the listener for his/her patience, a state of affairs that has existed throughout his career.

The album was produced by Ray Kennedy, a man who has taken over production duties on a few of Malcolm's albums so is well versed in the intricacies of this true originals musical requirements. It is not only the producer who has become a regular, with help also coming in the form of a number of top notch musicians who have worked with Malcolm before. There is Jared Tyler on guitar, banjo, mandolin, dobro and backing vocals, David Roe on bass and Ken Coomer on drums, with Tony Joe White playing electric guitar on many of the tracks and Roy Wooten adding his percussive flair.

The album opener, Sweet Georgia gets things going with banjo, guitar and percussion eventually joined by the dobro on a song that musically at least has an easy rolling feel although it is in fact a sad tale of loss. Malcolm's vocal seems, despite the usual raw edge, to have taken on more warmth on this sad reflective, musically upbeat tale. This is followed by the deep dark Another Black Hole, where the seedy side of life on the wrong side of the tracks is accepted as the norm, with driving bass, percussion and a sinister sounding electric guitar on a darkly atmospheric tale on which his vocals are at their raw and most evocative best and the arrangement equally full of darkness. Next up is To Get By, another easy rolling tale musically, with thudding bass, tuneful guitar and percussion on a song that is reminiscent, at least for me, of Guy Clark. Don't Play Around is propelled by a deep powerful bass, percussion and dobro on a dark swampy tale, with his seemingly whiskey soaked vocal full of an almost sinister gravel on a tale that pulls no punches. Finally, Papermill Man is led by a thudding percussion and electric guitar giving the song a swamp rock feel in much the same way as classic Tony Joe White, although there is more darkness to Malcolm's music and his straining vocal creates a much mistier, sinister atmosphere, with some tremendous female harmonies dragging the song towards a powerful New Orleans feel.

So, is this album his best ever or maybe even career defining? It's tempting to say it is but that would be because the songs are still relatively new to me and would be a putdown of everything that has gone before. The fact is that every album he has made for many years is his best ever and each of these tremendous recordings defines this genuinely unique musician's career.

No Depression - February 11, 2016

Malcolm Holcombe is the Truest Troubadour

For all the darkness in Malcolm Holcombe’s signature rasp, his newest record is a bright and shiny bluesy country rock gem. Don’t let the title, Another Black Hole, deceive you – this album’s sound is anything but. The guitar chords are warm and so is Holcombe’s vocal performance, from the upbeat opening track “Sweet Georgia” to the blue collar tale “Papermill Man.” The songs on Hole move at a brisk pace, with driving guitar melodies.

Holcombe has a knack for exploring the depths of the working class life, good and bad. He is a storyteller, and his songs have history. “Papermill Man” in particular, captures the gritty banalities of mill work in a vivid, descriptive way: “Smoke blowing up in the air/One room shack/One room school…Sawmill sawdust stuck in your lungs/And your head can’t hear the thunder,” he sings, transporting us to this one-horse town that sucks its people in. Holcombe has always been a classic troubadour, a little rough around the edges, no frills and as authentic as it gets.

“Leavin’ Anna” is one of the best examples of Holcombe’s narrative touch. “We traveled where the money was good…A workin’ man is a workin’ man,” he sings, setting a somewhat depressing tale of paycheck to paycheck life to a guitar tune that will make you feel light-hearted and hopeful. That is the trick at play on Hole: you may be distracted by the buoyant melodies so much so that you forget the often gloomy subject matter. For instance, “To Get By” is another tune about scraping by on a meager supply. His acute attention to detail (grocery lists on a Frigidaire; the local store on Main St. where you’ve still got credit) gives the song a sense of identity and atmosphere that personalizes it. Holcombe is a master at this, and Hole proves why.

FEBRUARY 11, 2016