Blues and More - June 2017
Described by Alan Kaufman as "...the voice of an entire region - the South - and even of a generation...", North Carolina's Malcolm Holcombe delivers a frill-free, heartfelt insight to the everyday issues and struggles being faced by the working classes and those otherwise downtrodden. And if his 'Crippled Point Of View' takes influence from what he observes immediately around him, he articulates hurt and frustration for those struggling to subsist in all corners of our threatened planet.
Everything's kept simple. Rugged of voice, uncomplicated melodically, the earthiness pervades. Whilst there is an eleven-strong credits list, Holcombe's studio buddies are used always to enhance his songs to atmospheric effect, from the bluesy bottleneck and jailhouse moan harmonies of 'Yours No More' to a rollicking banjo-driven country blues singalong, with an unobtrusive full band backing, in 'Good Ole Days'. When we meet a Gypsy street musician in ‘South Hampton Street', the keen sense of observation places us centre-stage in the situation, the Tex-Mex concertina adding vibrant colour to his sketch.
Holcombe’s words and naturally-articulated imagery mean that the lyric sheet reads like poetry, and he has an almost-Steinbeckian sense of place, his landscape encompassing fields, streets, bars, a Belfast cell and 'Bury, England'. But he is aware that the struggle is not new. The rough-edged country folk of 'Rocky Ground' is world-weary in describing the enduring, unforgiving nature of the land and how the associated travails get no easier down the generations, a sentiment echoed in 'Damn Weeds' and 'We Struggle'.
Great art has always been triggered and sustained by human suffering, but the ability to entertain in so doing is a mark of genius.