MALCOLM HOLCOMBE – The RCA Sessions (Proper/Gypsy Eyes Music)

MALCOLM HOLCOMBE  RCA SessionsGummy, cracked, rasping and often sounding catarrh heavy, the North Carolina folk-country singer’s voice sounds pretty much how he looks, craggy, grizzled, straggle-haired, gap-toothed, wet-lipped and weathered. But it, like the man and his songs, certainly has character. Critically if not commercially acclaimed, his first recordings appeared on a joint album with Steve Milner back in 1985, releasing his solo debut, A Far Cry From Here, in 1994 at the age of 39, since which time he’s released a further nine as well as an EP. To mark its 20th anniversary , this album offers a retrospective of his work between then and now, the 16 selections re-recorded in the RCA Studios in Nashville with a four piece band, featuring something from all of the past releases alongside a brand new number in the shape of live set highlight ‘Mouth Harp Man’, a jogging blues collaboration with legendary Nashville harmonica player Jelly Roll Johnson.

The set kicks off with ‘Who Carried You’, one of two songs from 1999’s ‘A Hundred Lies’, a simple, fiddle backed acoustic American folk tale that namechecks Agatha Christie and sounds vaguely reminiscent of Guy Clark. Since the intention of the album was to represent the diversity of Holcombe’s styles, the second track, ‘Mister In Morgantown’, is a clanking junkyard blues that reminds why he’s been likened to Tom Waits and which again features Johnson on harp before ‘I Feel Like A Train’, off the 2007 Wager EP, shifts to a sprightly waltzing fiddle backed dust country tune. The same feel informs a stripped back version of 2009’s eco-tinged love song ‘Doncha Miss That Water’ before talking acoustic folk blues take hold on the grief-stained, contemplative ‘The Empty Jar’. That’s taken from 2012’s Down The River, as is the far more uptempo, fiddle and Dobro bouncing social injustice-themed ‘Butcher In Town’; then it’s back to 2011 and the title track off To Drink The Rain, given a growling, raw, blues rock treatment with another lurching percussive rhythm.

Striking a contrast once more, ‘Early Mornin’’ heads back to 2005 for a warm, laid back country ballad that again evokes vintage Clark, the same album offering the similarly styled regret-streaked ballad ‘I Never Heard You Knockin’’, Tammy Rogers fiddle underscoring Holcombe’s world weary talked vocal.

‘I Call The Shots’, another abuse of power song from Down The River, is again a gutsy growled number with Waitsian undertones, then comes the first of the album’s two duets, ‘My Ol’ Radio’, the only song from 2007’s Gamblin’ House, a jaunty Dobro and fiddle accompanied country tune on which he’s joined by one of the UK’s great lost country voices, Siobhan Maher-Kennedy of River City People fame, who just happens to be married to Holcombe’s go to producer, Ray Kennedy.

Moving into the final stretch, ‘Goin’ Home’, the sole pick off 2006’s Not Forgotten, is another Clark-like spoken dust country number with a steady strummed guitar backing and almost minor key anthemic feel, then its back to Down The River again for the laid back, slow shuffling title track about the hard-pressed pulling together in the face of those who “make the laws to suit themselves.” The most recent number, ‘Pitiful Blues’, the five minute title track from last year’s release, delivers another gutsy, electric guitar driven, growled vocal turn with a fearsome lyric about the oppressed seeking an eye for an eye as he sings “all I wanna see, all I wanna hear is people dyin’ screamin’ full o’ fear.

Cleansing the palate, the album ends on a calmer, more wistful note, Maura O’Connell joining to duet on ‘A Far Cry From Here’, a song about love and the miles between that previously appeared on both his solo debut and A Hundred Lies. A solid retrospective for the faithful and an enticing introduction to newcomers.

Note: The release comes as a double disc, the second being a DVD recording of the sessions (Holcombe’s first ever DVD release) intercut with interviews with the musicians.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: http://www.malcolmholcombe.com/

‘Mister In Morgantown’ live in the studio:

Tom Russell – The Rose Of Roscrae

RofR

Double CD album out 13th April 2015 on Proper Records

Tom Russell’s ambitious new double-album The Rose of Roscrae takes a fascinating look at the history of the American West and traditional cowboy and folk music, through the story of an Irish kid who travels to the United States in the late 1880s to become a cowboy.

Produced by Tom Russell and Barry Walsh, The Rose of Roscrae features a who’s who of legendary Americana icons including: Jimmie Dale Gilmore, David Olney, Johnny Cash, Joe Ely, Augie Meyers, Fats Kaplin, Barry Walsh, Jimmy LaFave, Gretchen Peters, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Walt Whitman, Moses “Clear Rock” Platt, Jack Hardy, David Massengill, A.L. “Bert” Lloyd, Finbar Furey, Sourdough Slim, Blackie Farrell, Tex Ritter, Glen Orhlin, Pat Russell, John Trudell, Henry Real Bird, Thad Beckman, Maura O’Connell, Eliza Gilkyson, The McCrary Sisters, Ian Tyson, Bonnie Dobson, Lead Belly, Guy Clark, Dan Penn, Gurf Morlix, and Pat Manske. The album’s overture is performed by the Norwegian Wind Ensemble, arranged by Mats Hålling, composed by Tom Russell.

For over four decades and 28 album releases Tom Russell has continued to live up to his status as “one of the best singer-songwriters of our time” (Washington Post). His previous two  studio releases, Blood and Candle Smoke (2009) and Mesabi (2011), are considered his strongest composed works yet and were, in part, recorded with the groundbreaking roots band Calexico. In the 1990s, Russell and Dave Alvin were hailed as the architects of what came to be known as “Americana” music after their Merle Haggard tribute, Tulare Dust, initiated the Americana charts in the U.S. and remained number one for a year. Russell’s previous release, Aztec Jazz (2013), moved Americana into a new realm and his acclaimed song catalogue into uncharted territory.

Tom Russell’s songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Doug Sahm, Nanci Griffith, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dave Alvin, Joe Ely, and others. The Rose of Roscrae is his third in a series of acclaimed folk operas, following The Man From God Knows Where (1999) and Hotwalker (2005). Russell has also composed movie scores, including songs for the Monte Hellman movie The Road To Nowhere and published five books, most recently 120 Songs of Tom Russell. An accomplished fine artist, Russell’s paintings are featured in: Blue Horse/Red Desert: The Art of Tom Russell.

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‘The Rose Of Roscrae’ trailer video:

Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler, Sinead O’Connor, and more, feature on PAUL BRADY: THE VICAR STREET SESSIONS VOLUME 1

VicarStCD400Proper Records, April 27th

Take a veritable galaxy of stars…Bonnie Raitt, Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Sinéad O’Connor, Ronan Keating, Curtis Stigers, Gavin Friday & Maurice Seezer, Eleanor McEvoy, Moya Brennan, Mary Black, Maura O’Connell to name but a few…and then add one more… Paul Brady.

Paul Brady. Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist. Revered Irish talent of some 40 years.

The one ingredient that coalesces the mix, the common factor, the king pin, the thread that pulls warp and weft together.

Fourteen years ago Paul Brady did 23 gigs at Vicar Street, Dublin. Many artists have sung Paul’s songs over the years and in October 2001 he decided to invite some of them to play with him. The response was overwhelming. The result an inspired mega coupling.

Joining Paul and his band was a different artist every night, sometimes several. Indeed, as he says himself  “At times I was a spectator in my own show as my guests, my friends, took the roof off Vicar Street. I knew then we’d captured something special.”

This unparalleled set of musical evenings soon became the stuff of legend. And it always remained at the periphery of Paul’s consciousness. Now, finally, a first volume of these remarkable nights is to be released.

Out on Proper Records on April 27th it comprises some of PB’s best loved songs featuring some of the world’s best loved artists. It captures a taste of what it was to have been there on the night – intimate, funny, powerful and above all gloriously musical.

With 16 solo albums already to his credit as well as a fist of collaborations, Paul Brady’s writing effortlessly straddles folk, pop and rock (not to mention his enviable reputation as an interpreter of traditional music).

His songs have been sung by a huge array of stars over the last four decades. Tina Turner, Cher, Carole King, Art Garfunkel, Bonnie Raitt, Joe Cocker, David Crosby, Cliff Richard, Trisha Yearwood and Phil Collins amongst them and, closer to home, Ronan Keating, Joe Dolan, Dickie Rock, Maura O’Connell, Liam Clancy and Mary Black.

The Vicar Street Sessions provides a great tribute to one of Ireland’s finest artists.

1. I Want You To Want Me
2. Baloney Again (feat. Mark Knopfler)
3. The Soul Commotion
4. Nobody Knows (feat. Gavin Friday and Maurice Seltzer)
5. Believe In Me
6. In This Heart (feat. Sinead O’Connor)
7. Irish Heartbeat (feat. Van Morrison)
8. Not The Only One (feat. Bonnie Raitt)
9. Don’t Go Far (feat. Curtis Stigers)
10. The Long Goodbye (feat. Ronan Keating)
11. Last Seen October 9th (feat. Eleanor McEvoy)
12. The World Is What You Make It (feat. Bonnie Raitt)
13. Forever Young

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