Malcolm Holcombe – Bits & Pieces
This set is Malcolm Holcombe’s 18th LP & his lived-in vocals are expressive & chiseled from the same granite as J.J. Cale, Jon Dee Graham, Buddy Miller & the like. Aside from the gruff vocals, it’s the consistent quality of the lyrics dipped in his marinated melodies that taste so fine. Many tunes are like short stories & though the musicianship is spare – Mr. Holcombe & Jared Tyler’s recording is pristine & the instrumentation is satisfyingly full. It comes with talent & skill.
These tunes are all packed – lots of rambunctious country blues/singer-songwriter depth. The fertile imagination of Malcolm provides an earthiness, a rural backdrop that’s unfiltered. He explores greed, hatred & injustice. Been done before? Certainly. But the voice here sounds more experienced than most. A witness to the criteria. With a tonality that isn’t polished, Mr. Holcombe’s mélange is like a rich-looking rosewood table that was varnished once & now the sheen has been lost — but the beauty of the grain is plain to see. With Malcolm Holcombe, it’s always been there.
A practitioner of personality & character his voice is where Malcolm excels. “Fill Those Shoes,” is rich with a late-career Bob Dylan growl & intonation — just superb. A highly trained voice often loses its soul for its expertise. Much the same as the deal with the devil at the crossroads. With these tunes none of the authenticity is lost & no deal with the devil was made.
The kick up a stink accentuations, the hobo storytelling sauteed tales, the deep grit between the toenails & the Tom Waits-Chuck E. Weiss paper bag wine & alleyway melodic tint is a contrast that’s potent & attractive (“Happy Wonderland”). It’s like a double shot of whiskey poured into a tall glass of milk. You don’t see it until you taste it.
“Another Sweet Deal,” permeates with J.J. Cale-John Hiatt’s proficiency. A country-blues elixir that Malcolm (acoustic guitar/lead vocals) has mastered. Produced by Jared Tyler & Brian Brinkerhoff the 13-cut Bits & Pieces (Drops June 23–Gypsy Eyes Music/Singular Recordings/Proper Music/Need To Know Music) was recorded in North Carolina with all songs by Malcolm.
Malcolm’s turn of phrase in many lyrics is also sharp & humorous. Scattered throughout his repertoire. The playing is most gratifying. The music flows with little embellishment & this allows the words to play their equal musical role. Tales like “Eye of the Needle,” carry so much atmosphere in their presentation.
Highlights – “Bits and Pieces,” “Fill Those Shoes,” “Conscience of Man,” “Every Soul Is There,” “Happy Wonderland,” “Another Sweet Deal,” “Bootstraps,” “Eye of the Needle” & “Rubbin’ Elbows.”
Musicians – Jared Tyler (dobro/lap steel/classical, bass, electric & baritone guitar/mandola/tenor banjo/drums/percussion/bgv).
B&W image by Jamie Kalikow. The 42-minute CD @ https://www.malcolmholcombe.com/
Enjoy our previous coverage here: Key to the Highway: Malcolm Holcombe