by Robert Bell
9 p.m. White Water Tavern. $7.
So by now, regular readers ought to be familiar with the North Carolina native. But there's always a straggler here and there, and those poor souls don't deserve to be left out. So to recap: Holcombe is a helluva songwriter, as gifted with the haunting dirge as he is with the quiet folk meditation. As a guit-box picker, he's fleet-fingered as they come, and he has this unconventional approach to the instrument — namely, he smacks it like a drum and every so often he'll pluck one of the high strings so hard it sounds like a ricochet in an old Western movie. He's a rascally teller of stories that don't add up on the front side, but instead sneak in the back and drop a cherry bomb down the kitchen sink while you're still on the front porch trying to figure out what the hell. He has a gravelly growl, enough make even the meanest and most unscrupulous of tow-truck drivers apologize and then let down their rig, backpedaling the whole time — "Sorry man, sorry, my mistake."
Holcombe's latest record, "Down the River," is great. It's got guest vocal spots from Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle and has some other big-deal musicians playing on it too, and as usual, the songwriting quality is high. But as good as his recordings are, seeing Holcombe play live is an experience on another level. He can create a vibe in the room like very few other performers I've ever seen.