Malcolm Holcombe gets up to Tricks Of The Trade

Malcolm Holcombe gets up to Tricks Of The Trade

Malcolm Holcombe gets up to Tricks Of The Trade a great listen for the country music lover but still carrying exceptional insight into the realities of life for many in the US. An impeccable band and grizzled vocals communicate the sentiments with genuine passion

With over sixteen releases, in the US at least, I am ashamed that the name Malcolm Holcombe is new to me…a little research reveals a man who’s been plying his gravelled trade for over twenty-five years garnering much praise and a significant fan base with his unique mix of blues, gospel, folk and bluegrass. This new album, Tricks Of The Trade, however, takes a more electrified (as in guitar) look at matters of the heart, history and political commentary all with his sharpness and lucidity transferred to the listener via his gravelled baritone and knowing tone. It is a re-release of a vinyl-only album of the same name from last year and, with the CD, a bonus track is included.

The quality sketches that adorn the cover and liner notes (sorry…CD booklet) also carry an effective message: OK, I’m no art critic and they may seem to be simplistic but they are pertinent and, from someone who can’t compete in the art stakes with a 3-year-old and a box of crayons, they fit hand in glove with the songs on offer.

Opening with Money Train, MH’s vocals are…well imagine if Tom Waits gargled with gravel and bourbon (the whiskey, not the biscuit), and you’re getting close. But, after a few tracks, it makes sense and his intonation and enunciation is a revelation! Anyway, the backing is very good and the song pulls together the story of this money-driven world and the mix of acoustic and electric makes a lovely country blues pattern.

They say Misery Loves Company, and MH’s turns it into a countrified and nearly bouncy song with acoustic and slide to accompany such lines as “I passed out and I cried out my God what have I done she’s gone from my mem’ry (she’s only a mem’ry) she was the only one” against a background of a wasted life and booze.
Into The Sunlight shows all is not miserable as a complex acoustic picking tells us that’s where we belong. More country tinges and a nest slide working the backing in empathy. Crazy Man Blues is more blues with a Knopfler tinge as he rails against the actions of a certain person in the US…’ain’t it nice being white in a president suit, you never think twice with the crazy man blues.” It is country blues with a bite as sharp as the lyrics with more very neat slide.
The same person seems to be the target on Your Kin as the famous wall of said person causes families apart: backed by more layered acoustic and slide that keeps the country blue-ish. Damn Rainy Day reflects as an old man stays stuck in the past: the country-style stays but with a slower pace and weary voice to match and, to me, makes it more effective.

The following tracks have similar patterns if not subject matter which brings us to Windows of Amsterdam…more upbeat, tongue in cheek references to the famous district in that city but set against a light rock backing that has depth, variation and some fine acoustic work. In the closing song, Shaky Ground, we move back to the country for an (almost) positive view.

This is a difficult one for me, as it is essentially a country album but, having listened to it a few times it leaves an impression of an impeccable band, great vocal support and the overriding appreciation of his marvellous lyrics and that vocal interpreting them.

Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen for the country music lover but still carrying exceptional insight into the realities of life for many in the US. An impeccable band and grizzled vocals communicate the sentiments with genuine passion.

Malcolm Holcombe gets up to Tricks Of The Trade

Track listing:
Money Train
Misery Loves Company
Into The Sunlight
Crazy man Blues
Your Kin
Damn Rainy Day
Higher Ground
Good Intentions
On Tennessee Land
Lenora Cynthia
Tricks Of The Trade
Windows Of Amsterdam
Shaky Ground

Musicians:
Malcolm Holcombe: vocals, guitars
Dave Roe: bass
Jerry Roe, Mile McPherson: drums
Jared Tyler: guitars
Iris DeMent, Greg Brown, Mary Gauthier, Jaimee Harris: backing vocals
Ron de la Vega: cello on Lenora Cynthia

Connect with Malcolm Holcombe across SOCIAL MEDIA
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube

(iTunes changed tack completely with the Joe Lynn Turner vocals set against the fret wizardry of Yngwe Malmsteen for the 1988 album, Odyssey.)



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