Malcolm Holcombe is a medium to another time, channeling the spirits of a small town in North Carolina with the stripped-down pretense that guides life in those little places; places where everyone knows everyone, and a well-written song is Saturday night’s only entertainment, save church on Sunday.
Gamblin’ House is the veteran songwriter’s return to Weaverville, NC, just north of Asheville in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where simple lives aren’t easy and small towns are engrained with peculiarities. Espousing underrated pleasantries (“My Ol’ Radio”), reveling in the possibitilies that come with a crisp $100 bill in pocket (“Goin’ Downtown”), and lamenting love’s waiting game (“You Don’t Come and See Me Anymore”), Holcombe’s tone leaks emotion, despite his crush-and-run delivery. But just as the charms of this mountain world emerge with vigor, the landscape of the album often turns down dead end streets where “Blue Flame” barely flickers, and the sun burns bright, forcing Halcombe’s beer-can vocals on ice in “The Shade.”
Malcolm Holcombe knows small town life; he has lived it. And his knowledge of the complexities that boil just underneath the easy-going facade shapes Gamblin’ House, fueled by stowaway urgency of his guitar and the chug of “Jelly Roll” Johnson’s harmonica. There is a little risk in this game, but hell, a quick hand or two never hurt.
Gamblin’ House is out now on Echo Mountain Records.