“Another Black Hole” – Malcolm Holcombe

4 stars (out of 5)

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Another Black Hole scrollerIt’s just over six months since Malcolm Holcombe’s last album “The RCA Sessions” was released, so he’s obviously not spinning his wheels at the moment. “The RCA Sessions” was a retrospective with a twist, while “Another Black Hole” is ten new songs in the inimitable Malcolm Holcombe style. If your idea of a great voice is the kind of sanitised autotuned pap that you hear all over the radio, then we’d better say goodbye right here. Malcolm Holcombe has a voice that’s full of rugged character, matching the themes of his songs to perfection. As he sings in the title song, ‘The radio plays for the happy go lucky, that ain’t my set o’ wheels’.

Throughout “Another Black Hole”, most of the usual collaborators are present, including Jared Tyler, David Roe and Ken Coomer and there are a couple of guest appearances from the legendary Tony Joe White, notably on the album’s rockiest song “Papermill Man”, which combines the themes of nostalgia and life at the bottom of the ladder that run through the album with a raucous, rambunctious musical romp.

The language and imagery are more measured, but this album reminds me of Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball”, contrasting the Carveresque characters of the songs with the ‘suits and ties in the cubicles’ (“To Get By”) and the Vanderbilts who ‘hold the keys to the city’ (“Papermill Man”). If there was any doubt about where Malcolm Holcombe’s sympathies lie, “Don’t Play Around” nails it with the line ‘fuckin’ damn frackin’ and backroom stabbin’ knocks me down on my knees’. This is the ordinary, everyday Joe sitting in a bar and venting his anger over a beer before going outside to smoke a cigarette (and he makes it clear where that highway’s always going to end).

Malcolm’s voice may be a taste that you need to acquire, but the songs on “Another Black Hole” are beautifully-crafted vignettes of American life on the other side of the tracks, just out east of Eden. The playing’s perfect throughout, matching the music to the lyrical themes, without ever becoming overcooked. What more do you need?

Out now on Gypsy Eyes Music.