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