Recently, I was on Facebook minding my own business, when I happened across a mention of the latest artist on the blog, Holcombe Waller. Singer/songwriter Andy Moore mentioned him, and as much as I love her music, I knew I'd have to check Holcombe out. Now that I have, I just gotta say, if Andy recommends something, check it out. Don't ask questions, don't dawdle. Look them up, and get ready to buy it. I am mad about Holcombe's music, and, by extension, about Holcombe. He makes his home in Portland, Oregon, I am not exactly sure how to describe Holcombe, or categorize his music. There is a Folk feel that I can't resist, but he blends it with a bit of Roots music, a dash of World music, and the layered construction of Classical music. And all the while, allows the songs and music to speak for itself, never trying to throw a stick of dynamite when a birthday candle is called for. And while 'Into The Dark Unknown' was released about a year ago, I will take a look at it, as it is brand new to me.
'Into The Dark Unknown' was released in November 2011, a beautiful twelve song collection. The smart "Atlas" kicks it off with a light and airy opening that turns to a slight melancholia with the addition of the expressive cello. The song in moody, slipping in and surrounding you like a fog descending on the field. The second track is "Risk Of Change", a hint of Country barely hidden under the Folk veneer. It highlights the scare we all undertake when thinking about trying something new in our lives. Track three, "The Unicorn", offers up a lazy opening with a moody piano and a shimmering vocal, reminding me of some of the Celtic sound from the early 1990s, with groups like Clannad. But somewhere in the middle of the song, a shift in gears happens, and Holcombe takes a bigger bite of the listener. "Baby Blue" opens with a sweet acoustic guitar taking the focus, each note a separate brush stock to paint the mood. The fifth track begins with some Electronica that belies what is going to come. Check out the official video for "Hardliners".
I just love that song, with the build that takes you places you never saw coming, to the emotional climax. That is followed by an interesting choice, to be sure. Waller takes on Buffy Sainte-Marie with "Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan", originally recorded in 1976 by the Canadian Cree to celebrate her birthplace and heritage. Waller's voice becomes another instrument, not only holding a cadence, but also adding texture to the song. That is followed by another song with a mystical feel, with depth not only in the lyrics, but in the very essence of the music. See for yourself with "Shallow".
We finally roll into the title cut off the album. "Into The Dark Unknown" has an earnest honesty, with a slice-of-life realness of a Steinbeck novel. There is a sweetness in telling this story, a true warmth in Holcombe's live performance. "About Time" is a song driven by the cadence of the chorus, Waller's voice punctuating the song, allowing a build to offer a crescendo, and a natural ebb and flow. When the opening bars of "Bored of Memory" kick off, there is a return to a more languid feel, the harp and piano blending with a beautiful harmony, a lovely counterpoint to Waller's vocals. There is something about "Down & Cried" that makes me think of traditional Folk music, something unearthed from 2 centuries ago, without feeling the age, a beautiful blend of the old with a new twist, a shot of a spiced rum. And that leads us the the final offering, "I Can Feel It". There is something so bright, so uplifting about this song. It seems the perfect way to complete this album, to draw to a close this emotional journey with Holcombe Waller.
I'm telling you, Waller is one of my new favorites. His music has this regenerative quality for me, replenishing my soul. He manages to splice together a variety of sounds that might seem very different, and weave them into a wonderful tapestry. You can purchase 'Into The Dark Unknown' on iTunes, Bandcamp, CD Baby, and Amazon. For more about Holcombe Waller, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, and 'follow' him on Twitter.