Malcolm Holcombe "To Drink The Rain"
Holcombe’s eighth studio album is his fourth in as many years. From 2007 onwards, Holcombe has found a new burst of creative energy and his music has simply gotten better with every new release. What we have on ‘To Drink the Rain’ is a record that celebrates Holcombe’s charismatic vocals and guitar playing as well as the traditional focus on Holcombe as an old-school troubadour lyricist. The music is sparser than earlier records, and he clearly no longer feels the need to layer post-production tricks such as the keyboards and electric guitars that he used on 2003’s ‘Another Wisdom’. To be frank, ‘To Drink the Rain’ is all the better for it and may be Holcombe’s best record to date.
‘One Leg At A Time’ demonstrates Holcombe’s affinity for the simple things in life; there is a drunkard’s sense of triumph in the proclamation "I put on my britches one leg at a time". In spite of this, Holcombe has plenty of wisdom and opinion to offer: "There’s a land of milk and honey / Full of lawsuits left and right... We can’t kill everybody / With the bloody hands of freedom". These might be old complaints, but Holcombe delivers them with a freshness that shows they still mean something to him and reminds us they are still worth fighting.
The production on ‘To Drink the Rain’, has pushed Holcombe’s voice so far forward in the mix there is no confusing who is the star of this record - and what a voice it is. Reviewers generally rush for sandpaper, gravel and whiskey metaphors. Few opt for terms such as “beautiful” and “melodic”, but that is precisely what Holcombe manages. There is genuine tenderness on ‘Becky’s Blessed’, and on the title track the guitar playing and bass work lays an aggressive backing and Holcombe howls "There’s a hole! / There’s a hole! / There’s a hole in the ocean / A hole in the sea / A whole lot of trouble / To get me free". Throughout the record, Holcombe’s voice acts as a compelling counterpart to Luke Bulla’s fiddle playing – in fact Holcombe’s voice has a tendency to become increasingly percussive as songs develop, when it does. Often Bulla’s fiddle begins to provide a lyrical dimension to the songs. It is this level of attention to detail and musical sophistication that elevates ‘To Drink the Rain’ beyond the usual simple singer-songwriter formula of other lesser artists.
‘To Drink The Rain’ may be Holcolmbe’s most accomplished record to date. The album’s simple and honest sound shows just how confident Holcombe is in revealing his unbridled and unrelenting musical vision to the world.