Tricks of The Trade
Need To Know Music
Warm, World Weary, Thoughtful and ….. as Dangerously Honest as Ever.
Q) When is a new release, not a new release?
A) If it’s been released before.
But, if; as in this case something was released as a Limited Edition LP; just before the artist took seriously ill, therefore delaying the CD/Downloads coming out; and an unrelated pandemic stopped any promotion and an accompanying tour can take place; would that mean we can count TRICKS OF THE TRADE as a new release?
YES is my answer.
Mercifully Malcolm has come through his operation uncommonly well and I can now breathe a sigh of relief and treat this as ‘just another’ of his releases.
Money Train which opens the album finds our hero in his trademarked ‘piss n vinegar’ angry at the moneymen who rule the world mode; and boy can he write and perform something like this without sounding ‘worthy’ or ‘earnest’ ….. he just ‘speaks for the common man and woman.’
God Bless Him.
I forget how many albums Malcolm Holcombe has previously released; but in recent years he’s had something of an epiphany; writing better than ever; and this album has some belters on it.
Crazy Man Blues and the title track Tricks of the Trade are as good and eminently as ‘listenable’ as anything I’ve heard from the singer in the last 15+ years; and when you finally get to hear Your Kin and Good Intentions you will think you are listening to someone who is evoking the ghost of Townes Van Zandt; and to some great extent he is.
Malcolm has been around long enough not to really need comparisons; but I can’t hear him now without thinking he’s carrying that very torch better and longer than anyone else.
Traditionally a Folk Singer at heart; the arrangements are very sympathetic to Malcolm’s voice of course; but on many songs he transcends Americana and goes seamlessly into Alt. Country with the greatest of ease; especially noticeable on Damn Rainy Day and the magnificent On Tennessee Land; which is the type of song Johnny Cash would have given his eye-teeth for during the American Album series.
The ‘Bonus Track’ here Windows of Amsterdam is one of ‘those songs’ along with Lenora Cynthia that I can only imagine Malcolm Holcombe writing and singing.
For a million reasons this is a very special album indeed; and there are two very special songs here too; and I can’t seperate them so my selection of Favourite Song is a tie between the punchy Higher Ground, which features the joint talents of Mary Gauthier and Jaimee Harris on the exceptional ‘Higher Ground’, bringing home its reckoning on the final chorus:
“I got freedom to choose
I got freedom to lose
I got freedom to choose
T’other caught me unawares the first time I played the album; as Misery Loves Company was the perfect soundtrack to how I was feeling that day; but as the days have gone by it’s become a beautiful heartbreaker of a good old fashioned Country drinkin’ song worthy of Hank or more recently Kris Kristofferson …..
“I’ve tasted and I’ve wasted
the good life that I had
my poor selfish drinking
made a rich ol man go mad…I passed out and I cried out
my God what have I done
she’s gone… I oughtta be on tv
with a guitar strummin’ smile
cause misery loves company when the neon’s burnin’ bright.
It’s far from a criticism; but the arrangement and backing band; as usual are quite exceptional here and throughout the album too; but I’ve only ever seen Malcolm perform solo; and these songs ain’t gonna sound anything like this when he goes off on one, attacking his acoustic guitar as if it has personally offended him and bringing it on home unlike just about anyone else I can think of these days .
That said; as an album that you will listen to in the comfort of your home …. and you will; the Production team of Brian Brinkerhoff, Dave Roe and Jared Tyler have managed to make Malcolm’s wheezy growl sound the way the Grand Old Man of Americana should; warm, world weary, thoughtful and above all else ……. dangerously honest.
Released August 20th 2021
BUY DON’T SPOTIFY
Vinyl – https://www.malcolmholcombe.com/cds/tricks-of-the-trade-domestic