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Malcom Holcombe

Gamblin' House – 2008 (Artist gargae/Echo Mountain)

Reviewed by Andy Turner

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CDs by Malcom Holcombe

For newbie singer-songwriters listening to Malcolm Holcombe, they're probably either deeply inspired or discouraged that they will never be nearly as good as the North Carolina legend-in-the-making. His latest Ray Kennedy-produced effort features a dozen, hard-earned originals that snap and grind and breathe with tremendous life and detail.

Holcombe's voice outgruffs Guy Clark, but songs such as "Cynthia Margaret" and "Baby Likes a Love Song" just might make you think of the Texan. It's hard to believe anyone could deliver rough, down-and-out songs like "Evelyn" and "Goin' Downtown" as effectively as Holcombe, who growls his way through both as he sings about "drivin' a dog to drinkin'" and "I got freedom in my fingers." But there also is plenty of tenderness and deep affection in songs such as "Cynthia Margaret," a tribute to his wife, "From Lovin' You" and "You Don't Come See Me Anymore." Excellent backing players including drummer Kenny Malone and multi-instrumentalist Ed Snodderly provide lively and lovely accompaniment.