Malcolm Holcombe came back through town Friday night to play to a house full of his faithful fans at Kenny Pipes’ Almost Austin venue. He mounted the stage, mumbling under his breath, and went over to adjust the amplifier. He jumped back and as he shouted, ”BANG” signaling that Malcolm was his old prankish self and ready to play. And play he did…
He strapped himself into his seat before he burst into “Mountains of Home”, moving directly into the sure fingered picking of “Where I Don’t Belong”, and then into the gentler, “Not Forgotten”. The first three songs were played one after the other allowing for only a few seconds of applause in between.
This became the set list rhythm for the night. It was clear that Mr. Holcombe had lined up songs to be played two or three in a row and matched them to contrast the gentler and rougher sides of the Holcombe repertoire. The second set of tunes kicked off with the coarse and abrupt, “Butcher in Town” which was quickly followed by the soft and melodic, “In Your Mercy”.
As one of Malcolm’s public service announcements, he let us all know that it was now illegal to swat mosquitos as they might be miniature government spy drones made in China. The uninitiated might consider Holcomb’s humor a bit enigmatic, but that’s Malcolm, and he was having a grand time.
The third set of tunes began with the folksy “Mama Told Me So”, moving into the abrupt and intense “To Drink the Rain” delivering the rising crescendos with that cold, unblinking stare that could back down a Rottweiler. Again, he took the audience from intense to soft and melodic by sliding into a version of “The Crossing” that would “bring tears to a glass-eyed monkey”.
Before taking his break, Malcolm paired the long folk riffs of “Down in the Woods” with the blues wail of “Comes the Blues” and then the avaricious, “I Call the Shots” with the sympathetic, “The Empty Jar”. On his way off of the stage, Mr. Holcombe introduced a surprise guest, Miss Charity Ann.
Charity Ann is a young local singer songwriter, playing this week at the Last Concert Café, and gracing Kenny’s stage for a two tune sample of her wares, this evening. She has a strong voice with the locally familiar country blues twang, but singing in a rapid fire tempo, annunciating her words abruptly in the style of Ani de Franco. She performed her own tune “Changing” and one written by a friend for her to sing called “Quicksand”. She is a budding talent and worth checking out if you get half the chance.
After intermission, Malcolm began the second set with “Who Carried You”, stopping briefly to quietly introduce the sentimental, “A Far Cry from Here”. He lashed directly from there into the loud and demanding “Twisted Arms” to be closely followed by the social statement “Trail of Money” that was recorded with Steve Earle.
After indulging a quick request, the show livened up with the Appalachian boogie of “Marvalene’s Kitchen”. The night began to wind down as Holcombe paired “Gone by the Old Sunrise” with “A Hundred Lies”, following up with “The Station” as an encore.
It was an amazing night of music as Malcolm Holcomb took us on the ride through his extensive and multi-facetted song book, hitting on new songs as well as some old ones. The introduction to the House Street crowd of Charity Ann was noteworthy, as well. As many times as I’ve seen Mr. Holcombe at Almost Austin, it’s never gotten stale or repetitive and it would have to be a national emergency to keep me away from his next show there.
Comment by cb777 on 2013-03-14 17:13:04
Great review! This was my first Malcolm Holcomb show, but I hope to see many more in the future. Malcolm is an amazing performer and Charity-Ann is an incredible young talent as well!
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