Friday, November 02, 2007

Malcolm Holcombe -- Gamblin' House

I've been enthralled with North Carolina singer/songwriter Malcolm Holcombe since I heard his debut album A Hundred Years back in 1999. Subsequent appearances have been infrequent, but memorable. On an otherwise forgettable soundtrack to the forgettable movie The Slaughter Rule, Holcombe simply astonished with his take on "Killin' the Blues," a feral country lament last heard on the recent Robert Plant/Alison Krauss duets album. Quite simply, he's a phenomenal singer. But to put it mildly, he won't appeal to everyone's tastes. If Tom Waits sounds a little too smooth for you, he might. Otherwise, you might want to give his music a pass.

But I love his voice; a big, gruff, soulful mess of a thing, and I love the sound he gets out of his band, who play dobros and mandolins like rock 'n roll instruments. The end result reminds me of what a homeless wino poet from Appalachia might sound like if he put down the bottle long enough to stumble into a recording studio. And yes, for those of you who feel adventurous, that's a strong recommendation.

His new album Gamblin' House is due out in January. It's a killer; English-major poetry set to raw, plaintive Appalachian melodies, with that voice growling and insinuating murder and mayhem. Holcombe can sing an innocuous lyric like "I'm goin' downtown to see the Christmas lights" and make it sound a menacing threat. He's weird, he's wild, and he's great.


Scott Meek said...

Thank you for this recommendation. I love singers with voices like they smoke and drink whiskey non stop, and then follow that with chewing on gravel!

I'm looking on Emusic, and they have a few different albums of his. Which do you recommend? Not Forgotten, A Far Cry from Here, or Another Wisdom?

Andy Whitman said...

Sparky, Holcombe's albums are nothing if not consistent, so I don't think you can go wrong. I love all his work. I haven't heard "A Far Cry from Here," but "A Hundred Years," "Not Forgotten" and the new one, "Gamblin' House," are all great.

The Davster said...

The album is NOT entitled "A Hundred Years"!!! It is "A Hundred Lies" and is available on

In addition, Gambin' House is not yet released. However an EP entitled "Wager" is available.

And yes they are all excellent.

Unknown said...

If you'd like to see Malcolm in the intimate environment of my living room, consider joining us for what will surely be a most memorable evening on March 15 in Lebanon, TN. We host a house concert series titled Hillbilly Haiku and we'd love to add more music lovers to our invite list. If you are interested you can shoot me an email at There are already folks traveling to see our evening with Malcolm from Kansas, Texas, Kentucky and Mississippi, why not Ohio?? :-) Admit it, you've got to be wondering if we can really contain all of Malcolm's passionate performance in a LIVING ROOM!?