Blabber 'n' Smoke - February 9, 2016

Malcolm Holcombe. Another Black Hole. Proper Records

Hot on the heels of last year’s The RCA Sessions where Holcombe re recorded some of his lengthy back catalogue Another Black Hole is a very fine collection of ten new songs guaranteed to satisfy fans old and new. Holcombe certainly seems to be of the opinion that “it it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” so there’s a familiarity to many of the songs here. Country and folk blues tunes, eminently foot tappable with his guitar picking to the fore, his voice still gruff and rough, gnarling the words, chewing them up and spitting them out. Of course the words are masterful; he’s an excellent story teller, able to open up worlds in the manner of Guy Clark and John Prine, vivid images and characters populating the songs.

Recorded in Nashville with his regular studio band, Jared Tyler (guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro), David Roe (bass) and Ken Coomer (drums) Holcombe does add some new meat to the stew in the shape of the legendary Tony Joe White who adds some stinging guitar to several of the songs while additional percussion is handled by “Futureman,” AKA Roy Wooten. Drea Merritt adds her voice to several of the selections, her vocals on Papermill Man recalling Merry Clayton on Gimme Shelter. Together they can whip up a fine storm as on the swampy Papermill Man and the muscular title song where White is particularly impressive on guitar, his slide snaking throughout the song over the robust acoustic picking. They’re equally able to sit back and let the song ride out, nimbly picking the melody on To Get By or allowing Holcombe the spotlight on the spare September, a sombre bowed double bass the only accompaniment to his guitar playing and voice.

Be it a snarling blues tune or a sunny folk like lilt Holcombe’s word’s light up the songs. He mentions McMurtry and Cormac, presumably Larry and McCarthy respectively, in his lyrics and there are arresting lines in all of the songs here. He spits out the words, “fuckin’ damn frackin’ and backroom stabbin’ knocks me down on my knees” on Don’t Play Around while on Another Black Hole he sings, “the past has a smell and a one way ticket to leave you standing still.” Leavin’ Anna opens with the fine couplet “The Florida sunshine baked my bones All my life I been cold. Bronchitis, Winston cigarettes, I layed in bed alone.”

So, another excellent collection and the good news is that Holcombe is touring the UK and Ireland in May to promote the album with a Glasgow show included. - February 8th 2016

MALCOLM HOLCOMBE – Another Black Hole (Gypsy Eyes Music)

Having released The RCA Sessions retrospective re-recordings last year, Holcombe makes a swift return with a 10 song set of brand new material, recorded in Nashville with regular collaborators Jared Tyler (dobro, baritone guitar, banjo, mandolin), Dave Roe (bass), Ken Coomer (drums), swamp legend Tony Joe White (electric guitar), drumitar inventor Future Man and Drea Merritt (harmony). The voice is sounding increasingly gummy these days, the ‘sh’ of the sibilances making you wonder whether he might need a set of dentures, but that just compounds the lived in quality of his singing and songwriting.

‘Sweet Georgia’ kicks things off with banjo and string bass riding a relaxed rolling rhythm that’s rather in contrast lyrics about small town darkness, parental abandonment and cheap thin walls with cobweb corners. That edge also seeps into the swamp blues ‘Another Black Hole’, White’s slide guitar underscoring the air of menace and life in the city’s underbelly. However, while ‘To Get By’ continues the theme of scraping by and making do, musically – and in Holcombe’s phrasing – it comes over like one of Guy Clark’s good time strums. On the other hand, it’s early Kristofferson who comes to mind with ‘Heidelberg Blues’ where wartime images of bombs and ruins are at odds with the fact that the town was never targeted by air raids, though memories of the many souls who “will never know springtime once again” does remind that it was from here that many hundreds of Jews were sent to concentration camps.

With the line about “California wanna be’s feedin’ the famine in my backyard”, the loping, throaty semi-spoken ‘Don’t Play Around’ returns us to America’s urban recession and inequality and things don’t much lighten up on the rest of the album, either. The choppy “Someone Missing” talks of volatile relationships and “the bumpy ride way outta of town”, the strut-rocking blues ‘Papermill Man’ delineates a life of the daily grind for “a dollar a day” as you ask “do you live to eat, do you eat to live” while the “damn Vanderbilts hold the keys to the city” and the spoken, acoustic picked ‘September’ talks of loss and how “the hearts of the dead leave you empty”.

It ends on, if anything, even darker notes. ‘Leavin’ Anna’ (which references Cormac McCarthy, just as ‘Don’t Play Around’ name checked Larry McMurtry) recalls the Great Depression where working men “travelled where the money was good” at the cost of not having “a soul I can call a friend when darkness settles in” before ending on images of floods and drownings. And, finally, comes ‘Way Behind’, a song of loss (“a precious tiny hand holdin’ on and turnin’ cold”), guilt (“the neighbors all remember the fancy funeral homes I never set foot in to comfort anyone”) and the need for mercy and redemption “when shadows follow clouds too heavy with my tears.” Don’t come here looking for “happy go lucky”, as he says on the title track, that ain’t his “set o’ wheels”; but if you want raw hurt and blackened despair then this is your ride along.

North East Music Monthly - February 3, 2016

This is the 14th studio album from Malcolm Holcombe and it’s clear after one listen to his gravelly baritone voice that he has served his time out on the highway of life. Last year he put out a gripping retrospective, ’The RCA Sessions’, with dramatic re-recordings of some of his better known songs alongside a group of brilliant musicians that reminded us all what a unique talent he remains. This new album was produced by Grammy-winning producer and engineer Ray Kennedy and Brian Brinkerhoff. ’Another Black Hole’ features Holcombe’s trademark rasping vocals and bright, percussive guitar accentuating his insightful lyrics. It was recorded at Room & Board Studios in Nashville, and the 10-song set features longtime musical compatriots including Jared Tyler (dobro, baritone guitar, banjo, mandolin and harmony vocals), Dave Roe (upright and electric bass), Ken Coomer (drums and percussion), Tony Joe White (electric guitar), Future Man (percussion) and Drea Merritt (vocal harmony).

The album kicks off in fine style with ‘Sweet Georgia’ with Malcolm’s unique voice to the fore and the musicians kicking up a quiet storm behind him with a strutting banjo and a string bass that powers things along and a dobro cutting through. It has a wonderful relaxed groove that never out stays its welcome, in short its a perfect opener with a terrific summery vibe. That’s quickly followed by the slower paced title track ‘Another Black Hole’ that has the impressive slide guitar of Tony Joe White threading a dangerous path through it (Mr White wrote ‘Polk Salad Annie’ covered by Elvis Presley fact fans). It sounds menacing and spooky with the female vocal providing a distant banshee wail that rolls through the chorus making it an early highlight. The musicians here are wonderful and the sound is clear and true.’To Get By’ is a song about struggling through the mundanities of life on a shoe string and gets my vote for simply mentioning a ‘fridgidaire’ and using the phrase “high falutin'”. The guitar chimes and there’s a prominent mandolin sprucing things up alongside, as ever, Malcolm’s croaking weather beaten voice.

The course for the album is pretty much set by this third tune but it’s all high class stuff and if you like your country with a touch of the rough edges of Kris Kristofferson’s cowboy outlaw material then you’ll find much to enjoy here. Holcombe has a keen ear to twist the odd phrase that gives it an edge you don’t hear that often. It’s never overdone and the band are constantly superb, possessing some of the oddness that Tom Waits’ musicians add to his records though, perhaps, in a slightly more mainstream way. ‘Papermill Man’ rocks along nicely and again features Tony Joe White on scintillating steamy slide guitar. It also features the visionary percussionist Futureman, also known as Roy Wooten, inventor of the drumitar, who lends percussion on this and several other cuts. Drea Merritt drops by to sing sweet harmonies across the album as well. 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.

Perhaps what makes this album stand out is the sheer quality of the songs and the quality musicians alongside Holcombe’s lived-in voice that drips with world weary melancholia as he looks back over shattered lives and old memories, but it makes a potent stew that’s well worth getting a taste for and, if you are a novice, there’s a veritable feast of a back catalogue to sample after this. Go and eat at his table!

You can see Malcolm Holcombe live at Cluny, Newcastle on 19th May 2016 - review (5 stars) - January 2016

Malcolm Holcombe
Another Black Hole

Gypsy Eyes (label) - 19 February 2016 (released)

Andy Snipper

Holcombe is one of those names that I look out for and he never fails to deliver. This is his 14th album and every time I go through it I come away with a little more appreciation of his songwriting and guitar playing, all buried under that voice, rasping and breathy and sounding as though he had smoked a million cigarettes – this week.

He is a storyteller and all of the 10 tracks give you a picture of another piece of North Carolina life, not easy and never as simple as you first imagine and I must admit that you begin to get the mood of the song before understanding the theme but I also found myself wanting to get deeper into his music as the album went on.

All of the 10 songs here were written by Holcombe but he is aided by some stellar musicians in Jared Tyler (guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro), David Roe (bass) & Ken Coomer (drums) while Tony Joe White plays on a number of the tracks, Ray Wooten adds percussion and Drea Merritt sings harmonies on a few. White’s guitar on ‘Papermill Man’ is stunning.

The songs all talk to the hardships of life but they also show that there is redemption to be found in 40 years hard work. He sings about labourers, men who work on the paper mills, men who are displaced by the march of technology or mortgages and his music backs up the tales in his lyrics.

I would say that there are only a few in the roots/Americana field that I would grab as soon as they are available but Malcolm Holcombe is one of the very best. 
If he is only ever remembered for one song then it should be ‘September’ which is so dark and eerie that it is impossible to listen to only once – in my opinion it should be up there as one of the songs of the year.

For The Country Record - February 2016

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Malcolm Holcombe, whose “heartfelt baritone” (NPR)  delivers “haunted country, acoustic blues and rugged folk” (Rolling Stone), will release his 14th studio album, Another Black Hole (Gypsy Eyes Music), February 12, 2016.

Produced by Grammy-winning producer and engineer Ray Kennedy and Brian Brinkerhoff, Another Black Hole features Holcombe’s rasping vocals and bright, percussive guitar accentuating his insightful lyrics. “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 Kennedy.

Recorded at Room & Board Studios in Nashville, TN, the 10-song set features longtime musical compatriots including Jared Tyler (dobro, baritone guitar, banjo, mandolin and harmony vocals), Dave Roe (upright and electric bass), Ken Coomer (drums and percussion), Tony Joe White (electric guitar), Future Man (percussion) and Drea Merritt (vocal harmony).

Born and raised in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, Holcombe is highly regarded and recognized by contemporaries in Americana music including Emmylou Harris, Wilco, Steve Earle. An “emotionally captivating” (Isthmus), performer, Holcombe has shared the stage with Merle Haggard, Richard Thompson, John Hammond, Leon Russell, Wilco and Shelby Lynne.


January 16 – Red Dragon – Baton Rouge, LA
January 17 – Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm – Fairhope, AL
February 12 – Great Aunt Stella Center – Charlotte, NC
February 17 – Douglas Corner – Nashville, TN
February 18 – Boone Saloon – Boone, NC
February 19 – The Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC
February 20 – Six String Presents – Durham, NC
February 21 – Red Light Café – Atlanta, GA
March 12 – Laurel Mountain Coffeehouse – Kingwood, WV
March 26 – Acoustic Brew – Lemont, PA
April 2 – Laurel Theater – Knoxville, TN
April 7 – Ray Lewis Presents – Jacksonville, FL
April 8 – Luna Star Cafe – North Miami, FL
April 9 – Our Kind Of Folk – Seminole, FL
April 18 – Meneer Frits – Eindhoven, Netherlands
April 19 – De Schalm – Westwoud, Netherlands
April 21 – Musemix at Engels – Den Haag, Netherlands
April 23 – Clubhouse KZG – Grimbergen, Belgium
April 24 – Take Five – Venlo, Netherlands
April 26 – Die Funzel – Worms, Germany
May 1 – Stones Café – Vignola, Italy
May 4 – Next Stop Olten – Olten, Switzerland
May 6 – Tea Room Sessions – Carrick On Suir, Ireland
May 10 – Green Note – London, United Kingdom
May 11 – The Globe – Topsham, United Kingdom
May 12 – B-Bar – Plymouth, United Kingdom
May 13 – St. George’s Hall – Bewdley, United Kingdom
May 14 – West End Club – Barry, United Kingdom
May 15 – The Live Room – Shipley, United Kingdom
May 17 – West by Northwest @ Walshaw Sports Club – Newscastle, United Kingdom
June 11 – Kathryn’s Space Concert Series – New York, NY

Get Malcolm Holcombe tickets here.

Flying Shoes Review - January 2016


MALCOLM HOLCOMBE —ANOTHER BLACK HOLE (Proper Records / Gypsy Eyes Music)

It is always a thrill to receive a new Malcolm Holcombe album, the intensity of the music, the relentless rhythm, amazing lyrics coupled with a voice that’s as sharp as barbed-wired soaked in whiskey and only let loose on weekends.

Holcombe’s live shows have become legendary, sat with his acoustic guitar across his body, rocking back and forth with much energy and his head doing likewise. Intense hasn’t a look in when it comes to Malcolm Holcombe’s music. Here it is pretty much the same (though toned down in comparison), only he has taken the liberty of adding a little more pep to a couple of songs I would rather he didn’t. It isn’t I have anything against swamp fox Tony Joe White getting into the act, only he doesn’t need to be a bit of a rocker, his music is spicy enough. It only becomes a little cluttered to the detriment of his lyrics, and an acoustic base made up of his good friend Jared Tyler (Dobro, baritone guitar, banjo, mandolin, harmony vocals), Dave Roe (upright, electric bass), Ken Coomer (drums, percussion) plus Future Man (Roy Wooten), Drea Merritt (harmony vocals) percussion. Maybe he felt he needed to flex a few additional muscles on a couple of numbers. 

As for the songs, the album consists of ten self-penned compositions, and despite a reservation or two they are up to his usual high standard as he blends words of eclectic wisdom with everyday people’s happenings, and on coming down from a Holcombe high he comes up with such staggering pieces as “To Get By”, “Sweet Georgia” and to a lesser degree “Leavin’ Anna”; the easy rolling melodies greater than some things people have sacrificed their all.

Others of note include slow paced sombre, evocative offering “Heidelberg Blues” and with the above keener rocking beat “Don’t Play Around” comes across good. But not to the degree of the above or “Someone Missing” as Malcolm sets off on one of his exciting (and exhilarating) journeys with the aid of multi-picker Tyler, to strike gold.   

“Papermill Man” has a rockin soul tinged sound run through it as in the company of White, Futureman and fine voiced Merritt he takes a trip, music wise into the hustle of the city. Be sure to watch out for tour dates in the UK during May. 

- Maurice Hope  

Lonesome Highway - January 2016

Malcolm Holcombe ‘Another Black Hole’ - Proper

Following hot on the heels of his RCA sessions album comes this new one from Mr. Holcombe. He seems very prolific of late with a whole bunch of new songs delivered in that battered, gritty and distinctive voice that is uniquely his. It is a folk/blues Americana mix that brings together his usual crew of Ken Coomer, Jared Tyler and Dave Roe alongside Drea Merritt on some vocal harmonies and Tony Joe White on some swampy guitar.

Those who know (and love) Holcombe’s work will be happy to get to know these new songs. As in the past there are others who can’t get passed the voice. All has been brought together by Brian Brinkerhoff and Ray Kennedy’s sturdy production. The latter also engineered, mixed and mastered the album. The playing through is top notch and gives added depth and texture to these songs that look up to the sky and higher, from a position that is much closer to the street and those that live there. People who may just get by, who have few expectations but somehow manage to see some grace. This feeling may well be summed up in Siobhan Maher-Kennedy’s cover illustration.

The hard-scrabble blues on offer may not appeal to all but it has dignity and a purpose and the assembled players know how to bring the tales of woe to a sunnier side of the street even if Holcombe’s voice seems to sit on the grittier side of Tom Waits. He offers nothing here but his own truth and his hard held beliefs and some very credible music. Something that has always given Malcolm Holcombe his edge with his coterie of admirers and friends.

Stephen Rapid

FolkWords - January 2016

‘Another Black Hole’ from Malcolm Holcombe - songs that hold a ruthless honesty

There are certain constants in life, things happen and you can be sure of the outcome. A new album from Malcolm Holcombe delivers precisely that certainty… as always, there’s raunchy, gutsy percussive guitar together with unrefined, gruff vocals. Together, this union presents songs of meaning, songs driven from life built on experience. Songs with a sound from the rough side of the tracks, songs that hold a ruthless honesty.

‘Another Black Hole’, which releases in the UK in February 2016, follows up the acclaimed ‘The RCA Sessions’, which was a look back at 20 years music making. This one is a definite look forward, but as I said earlier, nothing changes except perhaps Holcombe’s perceptive lyrics cut ever deeper. From the narrative of ‘Sweet Georgia’ through the down and dirty title track ‘Another Black Hole’ and‘Heidelberg Blues’ to ‘September’ and ‘Leavin’ Anna’, Holcombe lyrics sweep you along with his poetry of life.

Alongside Malcolm Holcombe (vocals, acoustic guitar) on Another Black Hole’ are the familiar skills of Jared Tyler (dobro, baritone guitar, banjo, mandolin, harmony vocals) Dave Roe (upright and electric bass) Ken Coomer (drums, percussion) Tony Joe White (electric guitar) Future Man aka Roy Wotten (percussion) and Drea Merritt (vocal harmonies).


Review: Tom Franks

The Rocking Magpie - January 2016

Malcolm Holcombe
Another Black Hole

Blue Collar Songs to Soothe Your Soul and Warm Your Heart.

Malcolm Holcombe has a voice that’s not just ‘lived in;’ but bordering on being shot through but I for one love it to bits.

This is Malcolm’s fourteenth album release and right from opening track Sweet Georgia you just know that this is going to be something really special. There’s a snappy banjo/guitar beat accompanying him as he purrs the lyrics like a man on his deathbed.

The title track Another Black Hole, follows and just may be one of Holcombe’s finest songs. Always incredibly observant in his stories; this one has as much minutiae in each line as a Mark Twain novel and you can imagine the anger in his furrowed brow as he delivers lines like ‘radio plays for the happy-go-lucky/Drag me down a road to get even/for living in another black hole.’

I don’t really remember Malcolm delving too far back in his own history on previous albums; but on To Get By his tale of hardship has uncanny parallels with people living in Industrial towns all around the world in 2016. Try listening to ‘the power of youth runs by and by/stuck in a revolving door’ and ‘a dollar burns a hole in my pocket/for a magazine promising the American Dream’ and tell me I’m wrong.

I like the way Malcolm introduces jagged electric guitars on a few songs to highlight the darkly ragged stories. The best example would probably be on Don’t Play Around; when Tony Joe White guests. The song also includes some very effective ‘industrial language’ that shows the young Alt. Country upstarts that there is plenty of life left in this old dog.

Sometimes Malcolm gets so involved in his songs; you can’t always make out all of the words; but that’s not always the point as Someone Missing and Papermill Man actually prove; as what you can hear added to the passionate delivery leave you in no doubt these songs are honest and real to the max.’ On that latter song, we even get to hear soulful female backing singers; which is a first as far as I can remember and makes the song sound truly excellent.

While Bruce and Neil are hailed for writing ‘Blue Collar/Working Man’ songs; but you just know that Malcolm has actually stood side by side with the disenfranchised when he sings ‘A working man is a working Man/Makes the delicate flowers grow’ in Leavin’ Anna. There’s only ever been a handful of songwriters who can write words like this and make the listener ‘believe’ and Malcolm Holcombe is right up there with the best.

OK; he’s no Justin Bieber in looks or deeds; but if you love Americana or Folk songs written from the very bottom of a writers heart and sung with more passion than you will find in Clinton Cards on Valentine’s Day; then Malcolm Holcombe is the man for you.

Released February 12th 2016

Fatea Magazine - January 2016

Malcolm Holcombe
Album: Another Black Hole
Label: Gypsy Eyes
Tracks: 10
To borrow the words from a Neil Young album title, there's a ragged glory about the music of Malcolm Holcombe.

The apparently shambolic sheen to Holcombe's recordings add sparkle to his stirring collection of albums, the latest of which is the magical, Another Black Hole. Here he stirringly serves up an alluring, unforced range of songs none of which lacks his distinctive, gruff tones pleasingly set against swampy rock or finely pitched acoustic backing, provided by ace mates in the studio.

Some tracks come over all rusty and dusty and care worn, but with eloquent, hard-hitting messages, dark and raw. On the other hand, there is a natural, gentle touch, highlighted by the gorgeous, mellow and heartfelt Guy Clark-like, Way Behind, which warms the listener as it closes this ten-track beauty of an album.

Adept, and minus any bluff or bluster, Holcombe is a master of carefully-crafted, delicate and fiery lyrics with an undercurrent that's deliciously matter of fact and caringly edgy via a spiky delivery.

Having spent the last few months rarely separated from his triumphant The RCA Sessions album that came out in April 2015 - a retrospective of his two decades of recordings - it was a real deal pleasure to get my hand on Another Black Hole.

Opener Sweet Georgia - bumps along with a mandolin lead on a blanket of goodness not far removed from McGuiness Flint while the title track has breathy lyrics with twanging guitar and mandolins shooting the breeze to allow Holcombe space to grunt and groan.

And the way the man from North Carolina sings, it's as if he's never quite ready to let go of the final word in a line - delayed slurring is a technique he's perfected.

John Prine springs to mind in To Get By while the intro to Don't Play Around sounds all John Mellencamp before Holcombe launches into his most menacing track of the album, complete with swear words. Brooding doesn't cover this delicious five-minute tirade: "California wanna bes and Midwest muscles / stick close to the ground / feedin' the famine in my backyard / non profit town."

Papermill Man must be played at a volume that will annoy your neighbours: superb Creedence Clearwater rollin' and bouncin' with added TJW, Tony Joe White, that is. Terrific, rambunctious, infectious.

Leavin' Anna - flows along like an instant classic, jaunty and informative with the Florida sunshine baking Malcolm's bones though all his life he'd been cold, while Way Behind amplifies the thought and effort Holcombe puts into every song: it's beautiful with a plea for help through life's struggles, common to many: "Lord have mercy now and then / when shadows follow clouds / too heavy with my tears / to hold back even now."

Another Black Hole will deserve a place in 2016's 'best of' lists, as it's truly glorious in its raggedness.

Mike Ritchie

Johnny's Garden - January 2016

Review by Theo Volk (Lura) on

posted on January 5, 2016, 10:38 pm 

It is often assumed that A Far Cry From Here in 1994 was Malcolm Holcombe’s first album. However, his first was a 1985 duet album with Sam Milner, titled Trademark. On this album both artists do five songs each.

I discovered  Holcombe only with the release of Gamblin 'House. After hearing the joyful opening track My Ol 'Radio, I was sold immediately. For a long time this CD was one of my faithful companions on my daily train ride from Den Bosch to Amsterdam.

‘Another Black Hole’ is Holcombe's twelfth regular solo album, but, unfortunately,  he is still not known to the average listener. I do not listen to the radio, but I do not think he will be played much in Hilversum. Even if he is an artist extremely suitable for radio play.

His voice is recognisable from among thousands. The same goes for his characteristic acoustic guitar playing. But his songs should appeal to a large audience. The songs are pretty conventional. And most have very strong choruses. Just listen to the title track on the new album, it will stay in your head after just a few listens.

His peers, however, value and admire him, as he already toured with artists like Merle Haggard, Wilco and Shelby Lynne. And heavyweights such as Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Darrell Scott all contributed to his albums.

What can we say about the new album? Obviously, once again the level is as high as we expect from Malcolm. I would like to know more about the backgrounds to the lyrics, but Malcolm prefers the listeners to interpret his songs for themselves. Musically,  the most significant, main new ingredients are Drea Merritt’s backing vocals and Tony Joe White’s electric guitar.

The importance of backing vocals is regularly underestimated. Wrongly so I think. Just imagine Gimme Shelter or Walk on the Wild Side without those backing vocals. Holcombe calls his repertoire folk music, but country is never far away. Paper Mill Man on the new album even goes towards rock and is a pleasant change within the usual song structures.

My favorite is Do not Play Around, a song with tension and great background vocals by Drea Merritt. And with intriguing lines as:

"She was only fourteen in '65,
Ye know a change is comin '
Twenty-six stitches in the back o 'her head,
On a bridge in Selma."

Loyal fans can confidently buy this album. Hopefully it will also appeal to new listeners, because he is one of the best songwriters in his genre.

The Messenger - January 2016

Malcolm Holcombe, "Another Black Hole" (Gypsy Eyes Music)- Malcolm Holcombe's distinctive approach to music-making has found him variously compared to everyone from Townes van Zandt to Tom Waits, and the North Carolina native's fourteenth album represents an excellent addition to the impressive body of work that this gritty performer has assembled during the past three decades. Swamp rock legend Tony Joe White chips in on guitar on a couple of tracks but Holcombe is still very much the star of the show, delivering his compellingly grizzled Americana with honesty, perception and rough-hewn charm.

- by Kevin Bryan

The Blues Magazine - August 2015

Singular Records/Gypsy Eyes Music

Timeless Music from a Gruff but Great Voice

If you're not familiar with Holcombe, it's time to get acquainted. This package of songs is a near-faultless showcare of country-tinged roots music.

Ranging from the delicate Down the River to the rattling Butcher in Town, swooning melodies, subtly varied rhythms and evocative lyrics abound. With Holcombe's grizzled voice and acoustic guitar at the core, his top-notch gang of collaborators round out every song exquisitely, though Jared Tyler's Dobro and lap steel and Tammy Rogers' fiddle deserve a special mention. The DVD is extra booty, underscoring the intensity of Holcombe's performance. A rare jewel, this should be treasured.

By Iain Cameron 

Americana UK - June 2015

Proper Records 2015

A revitalised and essential retrospective

Over the past 20 years Malcolm Holcombe has steered his career through a sometimes rocky road. His debut album was recorded for Geffen and then shelved by them and he was reportedly a troubled man for several years. Indeed the filmed sessions on the DVD included here has a quote at the beginning from Steve Earle stating, "Malcolm Holcombe is the best songwriter I ever threw out of my recording studio." Happily he's been on the straight and narrow for many years now and his grizzled take on folk blues and country has graced a further nine albums with each one adding to his reputation as one of the finest exponents of the genre.

The RCA Sessions celebrates Holcombe's 20 years of recording being a selection of songs from his previous albums plus a live favourite, "Mouth Harp Man." However, it's not simply a "best of" as Holcombe and his crack band settled into Nashville's RCA Studios delivering brand new recordings of his selection with the sessions being filmed. While the end result would be a useful introduction for anyone not familiar with his music it's an essential buy for fans, even those who might have all of his records to date as the versions here are on fire with Holcombe exuding a rude vitality and the band whipcord tight. Ken Coomer on drums and Dave Roe on double bass are the solid rhythm section with Tammy Rogers adding fiddle and mandolin while Jared Tyler excels on Dobro, electric slide and lap steel. 

They can root around in deep delta blues, Appalachian country tunes and dip into tender laments seemingly without effort and it's a joy to listen to their playing. Holcombe growls and hollers, croons and mumbles, his voice stained with experience and seemingly dredged from the depths of his soul. His performance on "I Feel Like A Train" is astounding, almost shamanistic as he descends into primeval groans sounding like the oldest hobo in the world. On top of this we have Earle's testimony to Holcombe's song writing and listening to the songs here it's evident that he's up there with the likes of Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson and John Prine, using simple words to paint large pictures. Songs like "Doncha Miss That Water" and "Pitiful Blues" might have been collected by Alan Lomax back in the first half of the last century. "Early Morning" and "Who Carried You" are superior examples of narrative folk song writing and "The Empty Jar" shows that Holcombe can wax poetic and pull at the heartstrings with the best of them. All in all pretty much essential listening (and watching if you get the Deluxe DVD/CD release).

By Paul Kerr 

Songwriting Magazine - 23 June 2015

The RCA Sessions by Malcolm Holcombe (Album+DVD)

To honour his two decades in the music industry songwriter Malcolm Holcombe has re-recorded a number of his favourite compositions

Malcolm Holcombe has released a career spanning retrospective to celebrate his 20-year musical career. However, unlike similar anthologies he has re-recorded the tracks at Nashville's legendary RCA Studios giving them a raw edge which suits his rootsy tendencies.

As with all of his releases, the first thing that hits you is the sandpaper rough vocal. It's the sound of a thousand cigarettes, a chain smoker spending another night lamenting the rough hand he's been dealt in between each long drag. In the live studio, Holcombe is able to pack even more gravel into songs like Butcher In Town, I Call The Shots and Pitiful Blues.

Holcombe's homespun lyrics are the album's other driving force. Authentic and bordering on esoteric, they offer a unique glimpse into the songwriter's world. On I Feel Like A Train he sings "when I was a young 'un shovelled coal in the stoker / pulled out the clinkers with a claw in my hand" and *Early Mornin' sees him "riding on the back of Old Nellie, Daddy Pa setting tobacca / Leather reins in his big ol' hands, I hear I'm geeing and a hawing". 

The RCA Sessions comes with an accompanying DVD showing Holcombe and his band performing the tracks live in the studio and it's a setting which brings out the passion in all of them. Faithful fans and anyone looking to hear a true American voice would be wise to lend this grizzled veteran an ear.

Verdict: Rootsy and authentic Americana.

Duncan Haskell


Torquay Herald Express - 22 June 2015

Malcolm Holcombe, ‘The RCA Sessions’ (Singular Recordings)

This impressive CD / DVD package traces the highlights of Malcolm Holcombe's career to date, showcasing recently re-recorded versions of tracks from each of the ten albums that this criminally underrated country balladeer has released during the past two decades. The decision to revisit these splendid creations live in RCA's Nashville Studios gives them a freshness and spontaneity which if anything improves on the much loved originals, with "To Drink The Rain," "Mouth Harp Man" and "Who Carried You" emerging as the best of a ruggedly beautiful bunch.

Kevin Bryan