"I chainsmoke and complain, goin' broke inside," Malcolm Holcombe growls with his signature gritty vocals while sharply picking his guitar; If chain-smoking and complaining are some of the characteristics that embody the kind of talent Malcolm reveals in his raw, heartfelt story telling, well then everyone should applaud chain-smoking complainers.
On the exterior Malcolm is a chain-smoking, coffee-loving, flannel shirt-wearing man with a five-o'clock shadow and a cutting stare, but the minute he walks on a stage, out comes the performer with his jabbered witticisms and off-beat style. He has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
From the foothills of Appalachia North Carolina, Malcolm found musical inspiration from a†pocket transistor radio, his mom's French harp and all the music shows on the Fada TV, which sometimes could only pick up 2 channels. Malcolm was "glued to the tube" watching shows like "Sing Along with Mitch", "The Flatt and Scruggs Show", "Where the Action Is" and "The Ed Sullivan show". He learned to play a few chords on a flat-top guitar his mother bought from Sears in the mid-sixties, and the handy Mel-Bay Chord Book. "I couldn't make it past the first page 'er two. Mother said I sang through my nose. I just tried to carry a tune some way or another, just to pass the time."
After the passing of both parents, just a few years apart, Malcolm hit the road with a band called Redwing in search of a different scene. After a stint in Florida he eventually moved on to Nashville, TN, finding a job flipping burgers at Douglas Corner Cafe. Occasionally Malcolm would take a break from the kitchen and get on stage, turning heads and opening the ears of audiences that were so used to Nashville's formulaic country crooning. Malcolm's was a rustic, rugged, grass-roots sound distilled from the Appalachia Mountains with a soulful blues feel.
In 1996 Malcolm signed a deal with Geffen Records and was recording his debut. He now had the attention and recognition of Nashville's closely knit music community. Unfortunately, at the height of his career, Malcolm succumbed to the temptations of drugs and alcohol. He developed a somewhat notorious reputation around Nashville, performing disappearing acts only to return and wreak havoc. This was the start of a dark period for this talented, upcoming artist. The decline only continued as Geffen, unexpectedly, decided to pull his album release. It was a huge blow, but Malcolm carried on, returning to a life of short-lived, low paying jobs. With the failed release, and struggles with substance abuse, Malcolm sank into a deep depression.
After several other unsuccessful industry attempts, Malcolm left Nashville and eventually moved back to North Carolina, sobered up and released two independent albums.
Today Malcolm is still sober and continually touring with his particular flavor of gritty folk music. His last album expresses a variety of topics from politics in the title song "Gamblin' House" to the love and inspiration he gets from his wife in the song "Cynthia Margaret." He is still wildly unpredictable with what he says and still resembles a crazed person while performing; however, there are subtle differences like the cup of coffee that have replaced the booze.
The critical acclaim Malcolm always deserved, has finally came with Gamblin' House through publications like Rolling Stone, The Wallstreet Journal, and Billboard Magazine. He's been featured in BBC and NPR interviews, countless local radio shows, newspapers, blogs and foreign press. The album was in the top 20 of the Americana Music Association chart for 9 straight weeks. His eighth release, For The Mission Baby, will be released in the Fall of 2009 by Echo Mountain Records. Once again, Malcolm went with Grammy Award winning producer, Ray Kennedy and a few other familiar faces like Tim O'Brien, Jared Tyler and Kenny Malone. As always, no lack of cryptic undertones; the album consists of upbeat vocals, twangy country western melodies and the harmonies of Mary Gauthier, Siobhan Maher. Malcolm considers it†his best work yet.
"For The Mission Baby is a brilliant adventure into stimulating stories of unvarnished life expression full of heart, soul and mystery from a master." - Ray Kennedy
"Not quite country, somewhere beyond folk, Holcombe's music is a kind of blues in motion, mapping backwoods corners of the heart." David Fricke Rolling Stone Magazine