To Drink The Rain
Label: Music Road
Release date: 2011-02-14
Although Malcolm Holcombe is little known to the mainstream, he is well respected and has reasonable fan-base in country music circles. Holcombe hails from North Carolina and his music is more indebted to bluegrass balladry of Kentucky than the commercial country music of Nashville. To Drink the Rain is his eighth album to date but Holcombe originally found success and a receptive audience in the country blues resurgence of the 90s, with some critics comparing his work to that of a young Tom Waits.
Like a real honky-tonk man, Holcombe has boozed himself into many a hovel over the years. He is now sober and happily married, but his voice and the tone of his songs are marked by the grizzled experience of a seasoned pro. He sounds like a more slightly more dextrous version of a current day Bob Dylan.
It seems that Holcombe has lived out the life of the archetypal country-blues singer; talent, clichÃ©, bourbon and demons in equal measure. The course of his life, and all of his work, is deeply informed by the story of country music. He's also soaked in the mythos of the blues and he relies on these great traditions to give his songs added gravitas.
However, at its worst, such reverence for the past can make his songs sound too derivative. The generic, country production doesn't help either. During the low points of the album, the fiddles and slide guitars that accompany Holmcombe make the songs sound like cookie-cutter country. At its best, the album is impressive and the title track is a real ace in the hole.
In spite of problems with presentation and production, Holcombe's is still passionately and effectively continuing a worthy tradtion of music. This album could get past the established audience at which it is aimed, and this is a testament to Holcombe's talent. He knows how to wirte and sing, and even if he's recounting the same old stories, he's doing it with real verve.