Born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Malcolm Holcombe is recognized as a folk/Americana performer of international stature, and an uncommonly unique guitarist/vocalist about whom Rolling Stone said, "Haunted country, acoustic blues and rugged folk all meet [here]."
Malcolm Holcombe takes the stage in the same clothes he wore driving to the gig, and his soft voice, rasped from years of smoking and singing to be heard in honky tonks, rises to a howl as he frails his guitar with furious precision. He stomps, growls, rolls his eyes as he plays, then between songs cuts the tension with a corny joke. A veteran of Nashville who has little good to say about the music industry - “a bunch of people trying to buy their way to fame” - he has won the praise of such artists as Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams as he works and tours from his home in western North Carolina. A once-legendary drinker and hell raiser, Malcolm is now many years sober and embraces a gentle if non-specific spirituality.
In a journey that began in western North Carolina in 1955, the youngest of four children, Malcolm was fascinated by the guitar early, an interest he fed watching TV in his parents’ living room. “If it had a guitar in it, I’d watch it,” he has said. After high school and a brief stint in college, Malcolm played for a while with a trio called Redwing, then in a duet with Sam Milner. Eventually he found his way to Nashville where he established a local reputation and signed with Geffen Records.
In 1996, in one of those twists of logic only understood in the music business, Geffen signed Malcolm and paid to record his major label debut A Hundred Lies. The album was pressed, promotional copies were sent, and the album, a stunning, low-key masterpiece, was never released. In the wake of that fiasco, Malcolm made his way back to Asheville, North Carolina. A Hundred Lies was eventually released on a much smaller label and garnered some attention, including a four star review in Rolling Stone, and Malcolm began booking his own shows. There are stories from this time of drinking, drugs and wild behaviour, but like most in recovery, Malcolm would rather let the past stay in the past. “It’s a miracle to be here every day,” he offers. “I’m just glad to be able to drive on my side of the road.”
Newly married and sober, Malcolm released a series of independent records, then signed with a couple of small labels. His current album Down The River(2012) was Malcolm’s first independent release in several years and reunited Malcolm with Ray Kennedy, who produced earlier efforts like Gamblin’ House and For the Mission Baby. The album also boasts more recognizable guests than most of Malcolm’s earlier records. Emmylou Harris lends background vocals to ‘In Your Mercy’, and Malcolm duets with Steve Earle on ‘Trail of Money’. Darrell Scott plays dobro, banjo and electric guitar, and former Uncle Tupelo and Wilco member Ken Coomer handles drums. “I wanted to shoot for Mars,” Malcolm says of the high-powered line-up on this record. “Luckily, Ray knew some Martians.”
But the core of each cut is Holcombe’s voice, which can growl like a cement truck in low gear or mellow into a heart-tugging croon, and his guitar playing. Malcolm plays with his bare fingers and his percussive attack makes it easy to overlook the precision with which he plays. “I always forget what a good guitar player he is,” said an audience member after a recent Malcolm Holcombe show. “You think he’s just beating on it, but then you realize he’s fingerpicking really fast and not missing a note.” 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.
Praise for Malcolm Holcombe
“..stripped-down Americana at its best… Like all great storytellers he knows how to wring every ounce of emotion from his material”Acoustic magazine
“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.” BBC Music
“Comparing Malcolm Holcombe with the likes of John Prine, Chris Smither, JJ Cale, Levon Helm or even Tom Waits is entirely justifiable.
As a performing artist and songwriter, Malcolm Holcombe is an authentic country-blues bard.” Irish Examiner
«««« The Irish Times ««««« Maverick «««« Mojo
Malcolm Holcombe · Ireland & UK Tour · April 2014
Tuesday 15 York The Basement
Wednesday 16 Saltaire, nr. Shipley, West Yorks. The Live Room @ Caroline Social Club
Thursday 17 Plymouth The B-Bar
Friday 18 Winchester The Railway
Saturday 19 Barry, nr. Cardiff West End Club
Sunday 20 Basingstoke Private House Concert
Monday 21 Bristol The Alma Tavern & Theatre
Tuesday 22 Brighton The Palmeira
Wednesday 23 London Green Note
Further praise for Malcolm Holcombe
“Amazing, talented, edgy, scary, dangerous, loving, genuine, articulate, kind, unique. If he is ‘down in your woods’ make sure you seek him out – I guarantee you an unforgettable experience." FlyinShoes Review
"Malcolm Holcombe...stands out like a beacon in an industry full of shiny young things. He is an individual and a one-off and the World is a better place for having him in it.” No Depression
“If you look in the dictionary under authentic Americana, the first thing you’ll see is Malcolm Holcombe’s name.
His inner strength shines through the songs, which have a redemptive power and the feel and emotional punch that money can’t buy. ” R2