Last week Kasey wrote a piece about Tom Russell and I wanted to put this up the very next day. It failed to happen because I am exceptionally lazy and terribly behind. I wanted to put those posts back to back because I think there are a lot of parallels between their careers. Both have been around, seemingly, forever and despite that longevity neither have ever managed to really break into the mainstreams conscience. Hell, it could be argued that they’ve barely even cracked the conscience of the folks that follow this genre(s) of music.
At one point, Malcolm got pretty close. Even managing to sign a recording contract with Geffen Records before finding shelter in drugs and booze. He spent years building a reputation as being unhinged, unpredictable and all around undesirable on the Nashville scene so Malcolm retreated back to his North Carolina roots where he ultimately sobered up and got back to music. A couple of DIY albums later Malcolm found himself back in the critics graces with 2008’s release, Gamblin’ House. While Gamblin’ House was widely fawned upon by critics it went generally unnoticed by the Americana music purchasing community. Now, in 2009, much like Tom Russell, Malcolm has quite possibly released the best album of his career with For The Mission Baby.
Now, there are two comparisons I hate in music writing. I hate when bands get compared to The Replacements and I hate when singes get compared to Tom Waits. Why? Well, it basically comes down to a case of familiarity meets pretentiousness. The Replacements more so than Waits, but I think they’re sexy names to drop cause fringe music fans know the names but not really the music. Thus I view both as the high fructose corn syrup version of critical credibility. Is that fair? Probably not, but I venture to guess that 99% of all people 25 and under couldn’t pick a Replacements song out of a Beyonce’ lineup. Have I used said comparisons in my own writing? You bet your ass I have and I’m about to do it again…
Whenever I try to describe Malcolm’s voice to others I describe it as “the homeless southern more tone rich cousin of Tom Waits“. There is a lyric in the Drive-By Truckers song, Outfit, that goes, “a southern man tells better jokes“. There is a subtlety to that line that can be found in a rich southern drawl and that’s the subtlety I’m referring to.
Now, Kasey said, “Until further notice, this is the best record of the year” when he opened his piece about Tom’s record so let me officially declare this article, further notice.