For over 2 decades and 10-plus albums, Malcolm Holcombe has treaded right on the cusp of notoriety and infamy.
One of my favorite quotes on Holcombe has always come from Steve Earle, who said he was “the best songwriter I ever threw out of my studio.” That follows the intensity and controlled chaos that is a Malcolm Holcombe set.
The years have seen less unpredictability from Holcombe. He rarely rocks his chair to points where most people would lose their balance and crash into the floor. He also no longer wanders the stage during songs while singing bent over the mic with the back to his audience. However, he maintains an intensity that would leave an audience of punk rockers in awe. There is not a moment Holcombe does not seem to be pouring himself out on stage through songs or meandering stories that seems like nonsense until the song joins it.
With a new album, Another Black Hole, out in the world for consumption, Holcombe rolled through Houston for his second stop at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck. Sensing he was in classier quarters than usual, Holcombe held back most of his colorful language and stories for the latter half of the set, when he found a rapport with the audience and a sense of comfort.
The first thing one notices at a show by Holcombe is the extraordinary amount of sound coming from the small, fragile looking man that walks on stage and his acoustic guitar. Once he throws his hat to the ground and begins his fingerpicking, any thought of fragility disappears. He beats notes out of the guitar, frails all 5 fingers across the strings to bring percussion, lead and rhythm all out at once. A stare that looks nothing short of crazed and haunted comes across his face, then the stories begin.
The music comes from a breadth of experiences. There are reflective songs like his opener for the past few tours, Mountains of Home, and downright bitter songs lamenting the average man being left on his own like the upbeat Papermill Man or the slower Savannah Blues .
The songs rolled forth for a little over an hour before Holcombe exited the stage to calls for an encore. As he ducked outside, pulling his pack of cigarettes from the pocket on his t-shirt, the cries carried on for a few more songs. Then, as people began to give up, Holcombe’s cigarette must have burned to its final drag as he came through the front door to finish out the show with a 1-2 punch of The Music Plays On and A Far Cry From Here.
If you’ve never heard Malcolm Holcombe, be sure to get that changed up real soon. He’s not getting younger, his cigarette intake is forever unwavering and the road keeps calling him out on it. Don’t miss your opportunity to see this man up-close and personal.
For more information, check out his website: http://www.malcolmholcombe.com.