Malcolm Holcombe – For the Mission Baby

January 01, 1970

(Echo
Mountain)

 

www.echomountainrecords.com

 

On For the Mission
Baby,
his sixth album, contemporary mountain music/blues player Malcolm
Holcombe has solidified the breakthrough he made on his fifth, 2008’s Gamblin’ House, which showed he could
apply that scrappy, scraping growl of a voice and impassionedly tough,
deceptively virtuoso acoustic-guitar work to songs that had enough dynamics and
structure to stand out from one another. He wasn’t just doing
authentic-sounding but sometimes-shapeless variations of blues riffs, in other
words.

 

Producer Ray Kennedy is back in charge of this one, like its
predecessor, and Holcombe’s voice – which unadorned sometimes can come at you
like wind-driven leather pellets aimed at your face – is leavened by the fine
session work of Tim O’Brien (banjo, mandola), Jared Tyler (dobro), David Roe
(upright bass) and some on-the-mark harmony vocals. If Holcombe’s songs
themselves aren’t a great leap forward from Gamblin’
House,
especially the searing intimacy of its “Blue Flame,” at their best
(“Hannah’s Trading Post,” “A Bigger Plan”) they still evoke the visions and
hard-earned values of life in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Holcombe’s
home.

 

Holcombe can have fun, conjuring the energy and legacy of
loose-spirited jug-band music or country swing. But he can also capture the
heartbreak of despair (“Another One Gone”) in a way that is sorrowful but never
maudlin or sentimental. He’s not a youngster by any means – he’s middle-aged
and has had a lot of career false starts and personal-life struggles. But good
things do happen to those who maintain their musical integrity… and keep trying
to get better. And it’s happening to Holcombe, finally.

 

Standout Tracks: “Another One Gone,” “A Bigger Plan” STEVEN
ROSEN

 

 

To read a recent BLURT
interview with Holcombe, go here.

 

 

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