Country/folk singer Malcolm Holcombe has enjoyed a long and distinguished career spanning an impressive two decades. In celebration of this achievement, the North Carolina native has put together The RCA Sessions; a collection of songs written between 1994 and 2014 for his previous ten albums and EP. Unlike most works such as this, he has re-recorded each track just for this release, making it an extra special undertaking for the seasoned musician.
The cool acoustic riff of “Who Carried You” begins the compilation, preceding relaxed vocals that play out as if they’re narrating a folk tale. Its strong country flavour sets the standard for what’s to come ahead of the stirring introduction of “Mister in Morgantown”. This enthusiastic and animated offering features a mix of guitar, harmonica and light percussion, all of which unfold alongside an expressive harmony.
Festive fiddles get “I Feel Like a Train” going, ahead of a merry melody. Its laid back atmosphere persists into “Doncha Miss That Water”, whose stripped down, back to basics approach is realised through cheery vocals and a riff that’s a little more complex. “The Empty Jar” adopts a mellow, solemn stance in its wake, while “Butcher in Town” brightens things back up by dancing in on a fun and rousing beat. Fast paced and characterful, its lighthearted, playful demeanour is quite infectious.
Raw, coarse vocals howl out across some absorbing instrumentation during “To Drink the Rain” as it adopts more of an electric, rock flair than its predecessors. It’s succeeded by the warm and moving country ballad, “Early Mornin’”, which saunters along lazily, taking its time moving forward. “I Never Heard You” continues in a similar manner, generating a sombre ambience. Subtle acoustic guitars and earnest, reflective lyrics are complemented by poignant string work during the chorus.
“Mouth Harp Man” marches at a steady pace into thoughtful vocals that cut across reverberating harmonicas and colourful guitars. The busy and boisterous instrumentation of “I Call the Shots” arrives afterwards to preface an obstinate and optimistic melody. This is followed by the quick rhythm and speedy verse of “My Ol’ Radio”, paving the way for a cheerful duet with Siobhan Maher-Kennedy.
“Goin Home” is a contemplative composition next, characterised by bustling musical effects and an affective chorus. “Down the River” strolls slowly out of its wake, emanating a very relaxed and lackadaisical aura. Its successor, “Pitiful Blues”, is an entirely different entity, having an almost psychedelic vibe that conjures up images of being out in the searing heat of the desert. “A Far Cry From” decides to head back to softer territory, distinguishing itself as a restrained and heartfelt folk ballad that puts a touching cap on proceedings.
While Malcolm Holcombe’s material might not hold much appeal to those not invested in country music, it is an accomplished work within its own genre. Each track seems to tell its own story, with the compilation as whole feeling like something that you’d hear played over a camp fire on a warm summer night.