The Americana music landscape is crowded with performers self-consciously proclaiming their authentic Appalachian roots to an audience hungry for a raw, unvarnished sound that has the unmistakable ring of truth to it. In a gallery full of colorfully polished acts, Malcolm Holcombe stands out as stark as a black and white photograph by Walker Evans (or, in this case, Bill Emory). Holcombe, a real native of the North Carolina hills, has been releasing records for years, and even had a brush with big-time exposure thanks to a deal with Geffen in 1996 that ultimately fell through. Depressed and struggling with substance abuse, he left Nashville for North Carolina, sobered up, and released some great stuff independently. Now, his reputation for penning stories that map the back roads of the human heart—delivered with a voice that is somewhere between Kris Kristofferson and Tom Waits—is winning him growing acclaim. His 2009 release For the Mission Baby (Echo Mountain), was recorded and mixed by Americana star producer Ray Kennedy (Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris), and successfully captures his rough-hewn appeal. However, Holcombe’s live performances are where the real guts of his art shine through, and folks thirsting for a genuine dose of high-test country blues should make it a point to hit the Sportsmen’s Tavern this Thursday (11/4), at 7pm. I’m honored to be playing the opening slot, accompanied by the stomp box I built in the garage last fall out of some license plates, a metal salad bowl, some parts from an old Fender amp, scrap wood, and a doormat.