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Malcolm HolcombeMalcolm Holcombe
Album: Another Black Hole
Label: Gypsy Eyes
Tracks: 10

To borrow the words from a Neil Young album title, there's a ragged glory about the music of Malcolm Holcombe.

The apparently shambolic sheen to Holcombe's recordings add sparkle to his stirring collection of albums, the latest of which is the magical, Another Black Hole. Here he stirringly serves up an alluring, unforced range of songs none of which lacks his distinctive, gruff tones pleasingly set against swampy rock or finely pitched acoustic backing, provided by ace mates in the studio.

Some tracks come over all rusty and dusty and care worn, but with eloquent, hard-hitting messages, dark and raw. On the other hand, there is a natural, gentle touch, highlighted by the gorgeous, mellow and heartfelt Guy Clark-like, Way Behind, which warms the listener as it closes this ten-track beauty of an album.

Adept, and minus any bluff or bluster, Holcombe is a master of carefully-crafted, delicate and fiery lyrics with an undercurrent that's deliciously matter of fact and caringly edgy via a spiky delivery.

Having spent the last few months rarely separated from his triumphant The RCA Sessions album that came out in April 2015 - a retrospective of his two decades of recordings - it was a real deal pleasure to get my hand on Another Black Hole.

Opener Sweet Georgia - bumps along with a mandolin lead on a blanket of goodness not far removed from McGuiness Flint while the title track has breathy lyrics with twanging guitar and mandolins shooting the breeze to allow Holcombe space to grunt and groan.

And the way the man from North Carolina sings, it's as if he's never quite ready to let go of the final word in a line - delayed slurring is a technique he's perfected.

John Prine springs to mind in To Get By while the intro to Don't Play Around sounds all John Mellencamp before Holcombe launches into his most menacing track of the album, complete with swear words. Brooding doesn't cover this delicious five-minute tirade: "California wanna bes and Midwest muscles / stick close to the ground / feedin' the famine in my backyard / non profit town."

Peppermill Man must be played at a volume that will annoy your neighbours: superb Creedence Clearwater rollin' and bouncin' with added TJW, Tony Joe White, that is. Terrific, rambunctious, infectious.

Leavin' Anna - flows along like an instant classic, jaunty and informative with the Florida sunshine baking Malcolm's bones though all his life he'd been cold, while Way Behind amplifies the thought and effort Holcombe puts into every song: it's beautiful with a plea for help through life's struggles, common to many: "Lord have mercy now and then / when shadows follow clouds / too heavy with my tears / to hold back even now."

Another Black Hole will deserve a place in 2016's 'best of' lists, as it's truly glorious in its raggedness.

Mike Ritchie