With her new record Satellite, Calvert moves into uncharted territory, articulating a sound that is wholly her own. Though the compositions and vocal stylings offer a humble nod to her acoustic bluegrass roots, the record is musically a departure from this sound. With co-producers Marlon Patton and Rick Lollar (of Atlanta rock outfit Weisshund) providing a refined rock backdrop, Calvert deftly maneuvers through forms and styles ranging from traditional ballads to blues.
With Satellite, Calvert launches the listener directly into space; the record soars, it orbits, transmitting complex information in a palatable form. Several themes emerge: the fear and alienation that exists within our current political climate, emotional detachment from reality, and keeping safe the things which are most precious to a person — which for Calvert include her young daughter. “Having a child,” she says, “augments the weight of the world on your heart.” In the liner notes, she includes several lines from environmental activist Wendell Berry’s “How to Be a Poet,” lines which ultimately became the inspiration for the record. In the poem, Berry urges readers to “Live / a three-dimensioned life; / stay away from screens. / Stay away from anything / that obscures the place it is in.” Many of the songs on Satellite read like poems, demonstrating both a clarity of thought and an urgency which demands that the listener be present in this three-dimensioned life.
Born and raised in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, Malcolm Holcombe is being recognized by the contemporary U.S and European folk/americana community as a performer of national stature, and an uncommonly unique guitarist/vocalist about whom Rolling Stone magazine says: “Haunted country, acoustic blues and rugged folk all meet [here]…”
The acts of writing songs and playing music have always been hopeful ones, however bleak the subject matter of the songs might be. With Down the River, Malcolm Holcombe has once again given us a handful of songs that are testimony to the human spirit. In these songs, the old truths still hold. Love, the inner life, music, these are eternal verities and will outlast the trickery and chicanery of those who would turn us against each other. In these strange and troubled times, we need Holcombe’s witness as much as we ever have, and it is our good fortune to receive it.