DAY 21: Barry reviews musician Malcolm Holcombe

Barry morphed into Sweetie of the World about ten years ago (after my psyche recovered from the Barry the Drill episode I recounted in a guest blog on Alana’s Ramblin’ With AM).

We met when I ran the CAMS Acoustic Coffeehouse in Pinellas Park, a gathering spot for musicians and other artists of all stripes. Barry had a knack for performing really cool, little-known music by indy artists, and “B-sides” by luminaries like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed.

CAMS is long gone, but Barry continues to seek out the places where musicians and poets gather, and performs covers and his own compositions for appreciative audiences

He says the best local spot these days for hearing original music by professional and amateur artists is Kelly’s Hideaway Cafe in St. Petersburg, FL.

One of the things I really admire about Barry is his support of indy artists.

He’s spent a small fortune buying multiple copies of CDs from the musicians he likes, and while he keeps one copy to beef up his impressive music library, he has used the extra copies to draw attention to the talented people he’s met.

Over the years, Barry has sent these indy CDs to local radio stations and recommended the performers to local promoters and venue managers.

His ear for real talent is pretty refined, so when the local community radio hosts received one of the CDs Barry sent out, they would often invite the artist on for an interview, and to perform live on air.

Earlier this year, Barry attended a performance by visiting musician Malcolm Holcombe, and he was so impressed that he wanted to write a review of the show. Here it is:

Review of Malcolm Holcombe’s performance

at Dave’s Aqua Lounge, January 20, 2011

By Barry Moses

Arlo Guthrie said songwriting is like catching fish, and Bob Dylan’s upstream, gettin’ the best ones.

Malcolm Holcombe ain’t far downstream.

Some songs seem to have come through him, others probably came knocking and he let them in and dressed them up for success. Still others he must have just plain made up, and a few he’s drawn from public domain and customized via the folk process.

Like Dylan, Holcombe is adept at lyrics that narrate from uncommon vantage points and expose arcane, rather than surface, facets of a story. Such songs are not Holcombe’s only suit, though: he employed several genres–ballad, blues, bluegrass, rock, and standard at Dave’s Aqua Lounge, St. Petersburg, FL, on January 20, 2011.

I sat with eight friends. Steve Vaclavik opened with his band, The Woeful Ones. Steve advised the crowd that Malcolm would be up at 9:00 p.m., and with just one guitar “would kick their asses.”

That was my first inkling of how good Malcolm is.

Some of Malcolm’s stage patter evokes the undiagnosed, untreated characters you might meet on the Lost Highway; however, for the most part, his patter is passing normal.

When Malcolm sings, he’s seeing the eternity of what his music and lyrics release in measures. My friend Kathryn commented that he seemed drained at the end of each song and that, for an instant, there’d be nothing in his piercing blue eyes.

He played non-stop and held a multi-generational audience’s attention for over two hours, pausing only once for a couple of drags on a cigarette.

You can visit Malcolm’s website here, and his label’s website here.

He has five CDs out. “For the Mission-Baby” and “How to Drink the Rain” are the two most recent.

All five are worth getting.

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2 Responses to DAY 21: Barry reviews musician Malcolm Holcombe

  1. Bill says:

    Independent musicians are the future of the music industry. I’ve had the good fortune to see many artists before they became “big.” I ‘m still supporting local music and have yet to be disappointed. Thanks Billie (and Barry) for adding another name to my must hear list.

  2. Anjuli says:

    I think Independent musicians are really where music is at. This was a great article.

    We have a Music Venue- “The Upper Room” here in Renton for such artists and I must say I am always amazed at the great talent! In fact, we were quite surprised to see one of the bands who played for us last year….ended up on Conan’s show recently…and I think they also played on Jimmy Fallon’s show- but I missed that one. If you haven’t heard “The Head and the Heart”- they are some of the nicest people- and they sing great (that always helps with a singing group) :)!

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