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Wager

CD Review: Malcolm Holcombe

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The Deal: Roughing up John Prine, mountain man style.

The Good: Malcolm Holcombe's voice is like a punch in the face. He sounds like the survivor of a fight between Prine and Tom Waits. There are only five cuts on the North Carolina native's latest, Wager, but that's enough. Holcombe is so intense that he packs more into that five-pack than most do in a career. Backed by a skeleton crew of guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin, Holcombe's theory of songwriting cuts through the crap. "Try not to put too many lines of bullshit in there," he says of his method. He says what he has to say and gets out pretty quickly. Most of his songs clock in around three minutes. Although they may be short, you're in for a pretty bumpy ride on most. "Going Back To Hell in a Greyhound" is a trip you wouldn't want to share with Holcombe as a seatmate – he'd be in your face the whole trip, spraying you with spittle as he ranted about his lost love, and his lost soul. "Sometimes I'm running and times that I ain't" Holcombe says, "but at the end of the day I feel like a train." Yeah, and when this engineer blows his whistle, buddy, you best get off his tracks.

The Bad: At first listen, you may think Prine covered these tracks years go. Listen harder – that sound you hear is Holcombe breathing down Prine's neck.

The Verdict: Reserve shelf space – you'll be hearing more from this guy for a long time to come.

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