Mountain sage Malcolm Holcombe returns to White Horse

Last year year, Swannanoa native Malcolm Holcombe released a brilliant career retrospective, "The RCA Sessions."

Describing the impact of a Malcolm Holcombe performance in mere words is insufficient, to put it mildly. The combination of earthiness and mysticism, directness and enigma, sweetness and grit is something that can be fully absorbed only first hand.

The intensity can be almost harrowing as Holcombe flings body and soul into his self-penned songs. The acclaimed Weaverville native and Swannanoa resident performs at White Horse Black Mountain on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 8 p.m. on the heels of the release of his latest album, “Pretty Little Troubles,” which features Darrell Scott as producer and sideman.

Holcombe will be joined by rising young songwriter Teso MacDonald. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 advance, $15 door.

There was a time when making advance plans to see a Malcolm Holcombe show might have been a bad bet. While he was hailed as a deeply original songwriting talent in Nashville, owner of a unique rhythmic guitar style and a rasping yet expressive vocal delivery reminiscent of a mountain Howlin’ Wolf, he was also notorious for erratic and self-destructive behavior. 

After a near miss with major label success and a brilliant debut album that Geffen Records held back, he moved back to North Carolina to reflect and repair. Now, with his hell-raising days behind him, centered and sober for many years, Holcombe has emerged, brilliance intact, as an artist who’s seen what hides in the dark corners, confronting life’s messiness with passion, a sense of spiritual grounding and the fearlessness of an Old Testament prophet. 

Last year year Holcombe released a brilliant career retrospective, "The RCA Sessions," featuring re-recorded versions of songs penned between from 1994 and 2014. His songs of hope and desperation in working class America ring out like a voice in the wilderness, and Holcombe inhabits every word he sings. 

Until recently, Teso McDonald could have been found busking in downtown Asheville trees.

Until recently, Teso McDonald could have been found busking in downtown Asheville trees, but a conversation with law enforcement convinced him to become more grounded. His street performances equipped him with the skills needed to capture and keep an audience indoors for his original songs. From the Seattle area, McDonald was drawn to Asheville by the city’s welcoming artistic atmosphere and the presence of his stepfather, lead guitarist for Toubab Krewe.