By Jim Blum, FolkAlley.com
Despite his gravelly voice and tough exterior Malcolm Holcombe can touch your heart. He may poke you in the ribs to get there, but he will get there. This new album, To Drink the Rain is as spunky as it is thoughtful.
The album opens with a clear direction of Malcolm’s intent – to share insight he has discovered, and to make sure you have fun hearing it. “I’m gonna put on my britches one leg at time…” We’ve heard that message before, but it’s embellished here in the album’s opener with an engaging backwoods philosophy similar to John Prine. “Behind the Number One” is a more serious message about power and freedom and the questionable distribution process for both. Malcolm seems to be implying a second message behind this song – that it is sad more of us DON’T question our lack of freedoms. Another highlight is the lighter “Reckon to the Wind.”
The album’s title song may be the most telling about the author: “To Drink the Rain.” Holcombe is not hiding the fact that he had struggled with alcohol and anger. He is many years sober now, and much more cordial. Trying to relieve stress and disappointment can indeed be as difficult as trying “to drink the rain,” but it’s obvious as you listen that Malcolm decided to make the attempt. He also seems to be reaching out to us in case we might be dealing with the same struggle. This one is worth listening to several times.
Repeated listens are not hard either. The musicianship is solid and the band makes each song a romp. Luke Bulla plays fiddle and producer Jared Tyler plays Dobro. Guitarist Andrew Hardin (Tom Russell and Lucinda Williams) contributes the leads. Dave Roe (Johnny Cash) plays bass and said that he would buy his own plane ticket to record with Malcolm. Let’s also give a shout out to Music Road Records, spearheaded by Jimmy LaFave and Kelcy Warren. Without these two we might not have this album.