Flying Cat Music brings back the incomparable Malcolm Holcombe to Phoenicia on Friday, October 10, at the Empire State Railway Museum located at 70 Lower High Street. The show begins promptly at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 7:00. Admission is $18 or $15 with RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 845-688-9453.
For an artist who has never had an album actually released by a major label, Malcolm Holcombe has kicked up more than his share of waves, and raised eyebrows. Acoustic Magazine says of Malcolm Holcombe, “Like all great storytellers he knows how to wring every ounce of emotion from his material…stripped-down Americana at its best.” The Wall Street Journal notes, “There is no one on the contemporary scene like Mr. Holcombe, who somehow can convey raw fury and deep affection at the same time.” BBC Music states, “Listen to a Holcombe song and what you’re getting is personality in spades, a narrative so gritty with the noise of tough living that it rarely dips below the red on the authenticity meter.”
In a glowing review, Rolling Stone Magazine once described Malcolm Holcombe’s music as, “Not quite country, somewhere beyond folk, Holcombe’s music is a kind of blues in motion, mapping backwoods corners of the heart.” While The Irish Times observed, “There is something wonderfully untamed about singer-songwriter Malcolm Holcombe… His music lives on the border between folk, blues and country – lyrically and musically he is a more animated relative of Texan tunesmith Guy Clark.”
His peers have noticed Malcolm too. Holcombe has opened for Merle Haggard, Wilco, Shelby Lynne, John Hammond, Leon Russell and Richard Thompson; Emmylou Harris made time to back Malcolm on a song for a recent independent release; and Lucinda Williams had this to say about him, “From the first note I was drawn in. Malcolm Holcombe is an old soul and modern day blues poet. He is a rare find.”
Looking back on Malcolm Holcombe’s early years in Nashville, Justin Townes Earle (son of Alt Country music icon Steve Earle and an Americana Music Award winner in his own right) once said, “I didn’t think Malcolm would make it out. I was afraid that he was going to become another one of those famous-after-death songwriters.” Jack Silverman, while writing a review of a 2011 Holcombe concert for the Nashville View, recalled, “I first saw Holcombe play in 1997, and was absolutely stunned – never before had I been so blown away by one man and an acoustic guitar. But his weakness for booze and other excesses was glaringly evident . . . He appeared so near the precipice.”
Malcolm Holcombe finally steered his life toward the eye of the storm. He’s happily married now, clean and sober, but he still casts a sail into the eye wall, and the force of those winds animates his world with a power that shreds any pretense of complacency. There’s calm at Malcolm’s center now and his music reflects both the fury that surrounds us all and Holcombe’s deeper peace.
To watch Malcolm Holcombe perform is to witness lightning in a jar, with the lid poorly fastened. Holcombe can be both unnerving and exhilarating to behold in person. In a feature they published on Malcolm Holcombe Music Muso reflected, “There is an intensity in Malcolm Holcombe’s performances that can put off those used to a more laid back product, but those who have watched him know that Malcolm Holcombe is not just playing for gas money. This is who he is and what he does.” Comments like the following taken from a No Depression Magazine review of a Holcombe concert earlier this year are not atypical: “However many times I’ve seen him he still makes my insides churn because I never know just what he’s going to do next… ”
“I want to say that he sits on a chair but he doesn’t really sit on it, he rocks back and forth, side to side almost never using all four chair legs to balance on, yet somehow he never topples over. I want to say that he plays his acoustic guitar, which of course he does, but he attacks it as if he’s beating the life out of it. I want to say that he sings but his voice veers from a rasping growl to a languorous vocal and anywhere in between. One moment he’s like a man possessed, frightening in his intensity and the next he breaks out into the sweetest of smiles and then HE SNAPS A FEW WORDS OUT shaking you to your core.”
Malcolm Holcombe is the antithesis to contemporary commercial music acts. Hailing from the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, he’s been called a backwoods poet but Holcombe is simply himself, a kind and brilliant soul with no pretense of false grandeur. At root he’s a gentle man. For every harrowing tale Malcolm tells there’s a tender one to offset it, and his lyrics unflinchingly pierce the heart. Holcombe recently summed up his view of the world for the Tennessee newspaper, The Daily Times, “Generally speaking, I get a thrill seeing a blade of green grass; I don’t care if it’s a weed, clover or poison ivy. The four seasons, the wind blowing and the birds singing and my wife yelling at the dogs…it’s all music. It’s life’s music, and being able to participate in it and have a foot on this planet, it’s something to be savored and shared.”