The sandpapered vocals of Malcolm Holcombe have become his trademark. That voice however delivers some insightful songs that highlight the human condition in the way that the best of the old school blues men did. Bare bones emotions given some meat by Holcombe and his set of fine players who bring to these songs their individual spirit and musicianship. When these players are Ken Coomer, Tammy Rogers, Dave Roe and Jared Tyler you can count on them being right there with the songs. As is Holcombe, a man who put himself into the soul of these songs. Songs that are, for the most part, taken from his numerous previous albums but given the added impetuous of the historic studio location and the collective strength of the assembled musicians. The 16 songs run to over an hour and they serve as a perfect introduction to Holcombe’s music being as it is something of a summation of a career that has found him praised by admirers but also damned by some reviewers who do not take to his voice and rustic delivery.
There are a couple of vocal sweeteners involved too with Maura O’Connell and Siobhan Maher-Kennedy joining Holcombe on one track each. Jelly Roll Johnson adds his harmonica prowess to an additional track. Producers Ray Kennedy and Brian Brinkerhoff use the famed location and the assembled musicians to bring the best out of Holcombe and his Appalachian folk/delta blues influenced songs that come from hard times, hard places but not a heard heart. The darkness inherent is lightened by the humanity that exists in many of the songs and within the grace that Holcombe has attained through the years.
Having listened to Malcolm Holcombe through the years I don’t need to be convinced of his sincerity or musical worth. This album should go a long way to convince all but the most Simon Cowell-esque of you, those who can only attach merit to a “perfect” vocal. Life is not like that so thank God for those voices that reveal something more rewarding that perfect pitch. That’s always a thing to admire in itself but not the sum total of what the voice is capable of delivering in terms of emotion or storytelling.
The deluxe version has a DVD that captures the occasion and offers insight into the recording process and a legendary studio. There are interviews with the players express their thoughts on Holcombe’s songs and his energy in the studio. An audio/visual experience that offers both in full.