Sometimes when you hear an artist for the first time - even if you know nothing about the artist - you just know that the voice belongs to someone with an encyclopedia of life experience. Malcolm Holcombe displays one of those voices on the new album Come Hell or High Water.
The first lyrics on "Left Alone" are "He was a Vietnam veteran, a killing machine." That alone would be enough to get the listener's attention, but the words are even more captivating in Holcombe's deep, raspy voice. His voice is perfect to convey the heartbreak in the story about a veteran who is homeless and strung out in the cold. He is joined on the chorus by Iris Dement, whose sweet voice is the perfect compliment. This song is a powerful beginning to the album.
With "It Is What It Is," Holcombe turns toward the blues - specifically front-porch country blues. The instrumentation in this song is pretty simple. The rhythm is slow and steady and will have you stomping your feet. However, the song is made by the Delta-blues style on a resonator. If you just listen to the guitar in this song, you might guess that it was recorded in the 50s by some old bluesman in Mississippi. This song could just as easily be sung by a family on a front porch as by musicians in a studio.
The melody of "Gone by the Ol' Sunrise" is simple, but it's powerful enough to give chills. The simplicity of the melody is probably what makes the vocals so powerful. It would be moving enough to hear Holcombe sing, "The ground will swallow up my bones. Gone by the ol' sunrise." Hearing it with Iris Dement and Greg Brown on harmony vocals makes it even more powerful.
This album is a great example of Holcombe's storytelling abilities. With his raspy voice and his fingerpicking on the guitar, he has the ability to transport the listener into the stories he tells. Come Hell or High Water (Need To Know Audio) will be available everywhere on Sept. 14.