Track by Track – ” Ragtime! Hokum! Western Swing!” by The Holcombe Family String Band


Track by Track is a feature where the artist tells us about their songs. Today we feature ” Ragtime! Hokum! Western Swing!” by The Holcombe Family String Band. This album reminds me of The Basement Tapes, love the fun vibes, you can tell from the 1st listen that this is a band that’s doing it like they want to, mass culture be damned. All text that follows is from the band:

The Holcombe Family String Band are a Leeds based band influenced by the ragtime, hot jazz, hokum and western swing of the 1920’s and 30’s.
Following prestigious supports opening for the likes of CW Stoneking, Sheesham and Lotus and Son, Curtis Eller’s American Circus, The Stray Birds, Simone Felice and The Dad Horse Experience, The Holcombe Family String Band have won over fans of traditional and early roots music, taking something steeped in the past and highlighting the perpetual relevance of a music often thought of as primitive or archaic.

Hard Times –
A pretty simple love song about taking the rough with the smooth and firing six holes into any men who might try and STAND between the narrator and his woman. (nb. I support neither gun ownership nor shooting men in a fit of morbid jealousy…)

The Great Fire Of Armley –
There was an industrial fire in the borough of Leeds that we have a rehearsal room in last year. It claimed the life of one warehouse but luckily nobody was hurt. If I had to pick a favourite song OFF the album, it would be this one. Jon’s (trumpet) solo is one of the highlights of the record for me.

River, Black River –
The general feel of the album is of the early hot jazz and country blues of the 1920’s and 30’s but this draws more from the golden age country records of the 40’s through to the 60’s.
It’s got the outlaw country feel to the lyrics, about a man at the end of the line, coming to terms with the FACT that he’s not a particularly likeable character. At least, I think that’s what it’s about.

Oh Celestine! –
I think this is probably the song most synonymous with us. A pretty hot little dixieland number and no mistake!

Once I Was A Navy Man –
I was listening (and continue to listen to) a lot of 20’s calypso stuff when this was written. Stuff like Keskidee Trio, Atilla, Wilmoth Houdini etc. While it doesn’t necessarily sound anything like those records, they were definitely somewhere in my mind when I wrote it. The story of an experienced sailor, shipwrecked on some remote African island, thinking of his loved one and waiting for his inevitable death. Pretty lilting and not anywhere near as depressing as my description would have you believe.

Rag Mama Rag –
The oldest song on the album. Played on a 100 year old zither banjo if you please.

The Captain –
A raucous number about my less than impressive employment history. All blazing old time fiddle and syncopated washboard.

Yo Hair’s Too Long –
Hokum at it’s most suggestive… Fighting, boozing and shallow lovers.

You’re My Woman Now –
A plaintive love song. About settling down and putting some things ahead of your own happiness for the first time in your life. A definite nod to the likes of The Ink Spots and The Cats & The Fiddle here.

The Holcombe Family String Band:

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Co-founder of 50thirdand3rd, stepped away to spend time with family and write. From Pittsburgh, now in Florida, Cool Canadian artist wife, 4 great kids, and two granddaughters!! I'm a lucky guy!

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