Malcolm Holcombe

REVIEW: Malcolm Holcombe “Tricks of the Trade”


Malcolm HolcombeTricks of the Trade

Found on a menu that would also include dishes by Tom Waits-Chuck E. Weiss is North Carolina’s, Malcolm Holcombe. Despite comparisons, he’s wholly an original. His pen stings of blues, stab at jazz, with avant-garde salt, hipster lyrics dipped into Lord Buckley’s pot, with a little twist of Captain Beefheart. Songs like “Money Train,” with its glint in the damp chill of the sun as its light, sparkles like tossed away stars out in a mud puddle — after a summer downpour. Yeah, baby.

Holcombe never wanders. Each tune focuses on a particular subject as he adds his instrumentation & wily voice of wisdom with a slug of whiskey & a whiskered smile.

“Misery Loves Company,” adds persistent pedal steel that colors melancholic. With Captain Beefheart & Chuck E. Weiss now passed & Tom Waits on a long sabbatical it’s a pleasure to hear someone with serious songs that don’t appear dipped in the red candy-apple coating.


Tricks of the Trade (Drops Aug 20/Gokuhi Entertainment/Singular/Handmade Music). 13-well-nourished tracks with tight acoustic guitar picking, electric guitar whining that all punctuate songs like “Crazy Man Blues.” Infused with sassy intonation.

It’s like your grandfather’s on the porch with a jug of hooch in his boxer shorts singing while playing an old National Guitar with a switchblade. A blood hound’s asleep under his chair. All your schoolfriends tongues hang out at the picket fence, as they spill their Pepsis into the gardenias.

And you have the coolest grandpa in town.

Holcombe’s had many LPs since the 90s. What a raspy-voiced singer has when it’s in the throat of a Malcolm Holcombe is individuality, class & most importantly charm. Female vocalists like Lucinda Williams, Bonnie Tyler & Kim Carnes would know what I mean. They exude a necessary authenticity in every word spilled from their soul. There’s no showboating, no pristine clarity, or exceptional skill except for an ability to communicate to people familiar with life’s bare necessities & hardships.

“Your Kin,” is such a song – glorious in its seriousness. “Damn Rainy Day,” sounds like songs written by either the late Roger Miller (sample his “River In the Rain”) or Chip Taylor.

Yet this wild strain of poignancy is provided throughout by Mr. Holcombe. The opposite side of the coin had John Prine’s face on it. It’s a good place to be.

Malcolm Holcombe

Some (“Good Intentions”) harken back to a dark carnival spirit in the tradition of Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht. However, Malcolm’s songs aren’t all darkness. Many are topical, contemporary & well-written (“Shakey Ground”).


These originals were recorded in Nashville with David Roe, Jared Tyler, Jerry Roe, Mary Gauthier, Jaimee Harris, Miles McPherson & Ron De La Vega. Produced by Brian Brinkerhoff, David Roe with Jared Tyler.

B&W Photo by John Gellman.

The 46-minute CD is available @

























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