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Malcolm Holcombe

A Conversation with Malcolm Holcombe (continued)

PM: Although I do read you as a pretty spiritual guy--

MH: Well...

PM: Not in a new age sense, but you're kind of a spiritual guy anyhow.

MH: Yeah. There's a lot of things that I don't know about that I'm--there ain't no magic. It's just life's experiences. I mean, in my opinion, that's what I'm trying to express. And people have come up with their explanation, but I don't really have one, other than if you're going to write about building a rock wall, I hope you've built a rock wall.

PM: [laughs]

MH: I think about building one, but--

PM: I'll write about it afterwards.

MH: Yeah. It's hard for me, anyway, to write about something I haven't experienced. Sing about what you believe in. Write about what you believe in. I try to write what I believe in and try to put it across as something that says, man, this guy sort of knows what he's talking about, or at least he acts like he knows what he's talking about.

PM: Yeah, well, that makes sense, because when I see you on stage, what I see and what I enjoy is, okay, there is not only a guy that's throwing down, he's like right here, right now, he is totally committed to what he's doing.

PM: Well, Dennis LeCorriere [a revered vocalist and songwriter] at Douglas Corner Cafe was preaching on the stage one night, and I never will forget it. He said, "Man, you want us--the band--to deliver," and he was just emphatic. And that was ten years ago. And that's one thing that I do remember. Because he--man, he got up there and--you know who he is? You might know him.

PM: Yeah.

MH: And he got up there and he just delivered. And he was saying, "You people out there just"--he was preaching, man. So I try, when I eat ice cream, to eat ice cream.

PM: [laughs]

MH: You know what I mean?

PM: I heard you, man.

MH: And I try, not always, but make an attempt to deliver.

PM: It's true that I've never seen you anything but really, really committed to what you're doing on stage. You're not only a really good country blues picker, you're perhaps the most dynamic, even aggressive picker of that style of which I'm aware.

MH: Well, that's like Lonesome George Gobel, you know?

PM: [laughs]

MH: "When it comes to a part I know, I play the hell out of it."

PM: Which finger pickers--

MH: I saw him on the Ed Sullivan Show. Did you see that?

PM: Which?

MH: He was on the Ed Sullivan Show. Lonesome George Gobel. Do you know who he is?

PM: Oh, yeah!

MH: Yeah, and he had an orchestra behind him, and he got up to the microphone and started playing--just beating that old F-hole whatever it was. Yeah, he'd come up to the microphone and say, "When it comes to the part I know, I play the hell out of it."

PM: [laughs]

MH: So [laughs] that makes sense to me.

PM: Aside from Gobel, which finger pickers influenced you as you taught yourself to play? Like are you a John Hurt guy, or--

MH: Jim Croce, James Taylor, and then recently, Tony Arata was, and still is, a beautiful soulful inspiration to me. I owe him more than I can ever express--

PM: Wow.

MH: --for how much he influenced me as a person and as a songwriter and as a human being. I think that man right there has got a beautiful gift from God, and is a beautiful man, a gentlemen, and a good friend. And I don't know if he knows how deep an impact he makes and what an inspiration he is. I look up to Tony Arata--aside from God himself, as far as this earth, this planet earth--as a songwriter with soul and meaning that can wrap words around me, and the way he plays and sings, it's special. It's very, very unique. Not too many people get my attention, other than when my wife calls me for supper. I try to pay attention to that.

PM: [laughs] That gets your attention.

MH: Yeah.

PM: Yeah, Tony is truly amazing. And it's very enlightening to hear you say what a huge influence he's been on you. I was talking to Matt Lindsey yesterday about Tony Arata, and he said, "Frank, if you don't have his records, we got to get you to cover them at Puremusic." So we just received his latest, and that will be a real pleasure. [look for a Tony Arata review next month]

On the subject of guitar pickers, you've certainly made records with some of my favorites, Sam Broussard and George Marinelli, and further back, Larry Cheney.

MH: Larry! I haven't seen Larry in a long time.

PM: I think Larry beat it down to Austin. I ain't seen him in some years myself.

MH: Yeah, I haven't seen him or heard from him. But yeah, Larry Cheney is a wonderful talent.

And Sam Broussard is a prince.

PM: He is. I mean, have you heard--I'm sure you've heard Sam's singer/songwriter record called Geeks, right?

MH: Yes. I've got two copies of it right over there.

PM: Damn, that's a good record! [see our review]

MH: A fine record. I mean, it's got substance. And Sam is a gentleman and a prince among men.

PM: Yeah, he's deep as a well. And George Marinelli, too--

MH: Oh, yeah.

PM: --even though he's a real cutup, George is another deep character.

MH: Yeah, George. I don't know George that well, but I know he's a wonderful player, and he's got soul in his playing as well.

PM: Yeah, it's amazing what he's done. [George is Bruce Hornsby's original guy, plays with Bonnie Raitt, and pops up in Puremusic here and there, if you do a search.]  continue

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