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Musician on I-40 roll to LR


This article was published December 12, 2013 at 2:55 a.m.


Malcolm Holcombe

Malcolm Holcombe has one of those voices that’s a difficult-to-define mix of country, blues and folk. It’s reminiscent in different ways to the voices of Bob Dylan or Tom Waits - he has been accused of snarling and sounding gruff. And he writes Appalachian soul songs that earn him comparisons to Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and John Prine.

The singer-songwriter-guitarist lives in Swannanoa, N.C., between Asheville and Black Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the western part of the state. Interstate 40 cuts through Swannanoa, meaning Holcombe can go up an interstate ramp and just drive west when he heads back to Little Rock, which he likes to do.

Holcombe says he enjoys playing at the White Water Tavern. It’s a place where he has performed a couple of times, and he goes out of his way to book a show there on his way to or from tour stops in Texas or other points west. This time he’s bringing along a musical associate, Jared Tyler, who will open the show and also accompany Holcombe.

“Jared is from Tulsa and he’s played with David Wilcox and John Cowan,” Holcombe says. “I really like the way he plays dobro, and he also plays mandolin and guitar, and he’s a songwriter, too. He’s a good soul, very gifted, and he’s worked with me for 15 years, on seven of my albums.”

Holcombe started releasing albums in 1994 with A Far Cry From Here, which was followed by A Hundred Lies in 1999, Another Wisdom in 2003, I Never Heard You Knockin’ in 2005, Gamblin’ House and Not Forgotten, both in 2007, Wager in 2008, For the Mission Baby in 2009, To Drink the Water in 2011 and Down the River in 2012.

Though Holcombe is not yet that well known to many music fans, his peers have flocked to take part in his recording process. His albums have featured contributions from Tammy Rogers, Darrell Scott, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Greg Leisz, Kim Richey, Tim O’Brien and Ken Coomer (formerly of Wilco).

His part of the state has produced several notable musicians, Holcombe observes, including the late Doc Watson, David Holt and Warren Haynes (of Gov’t Mule and The Allman Brothers Band).

“We have a whole crop of young kids playing and writing, some of them at Warren Wilson College,” Holcombe says. “A lot of them are drawn to old Irish music, which makes sense, ’cause the area looks just like Ireland.

“I sure miss ol’ Doc, too.”

Malcolm Holcombe

Opening act: Jared Tyler

9 p.m. today, White Water Tavern, West Seventh and Thayer streets, Little Rock

Admission: $8

(501) 375-8400

Weekend, Pages 37 on 12/12/2013

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