"O Come, Custodiangel" is an album of songs originating from the original recording sessions for Holcombe's 2005 album, "Troubled Times." These recordings, with the exception of the final three live tracks, were cut from "Troubled Times" in the final editing and mastering of the near-hour-length album. Representing work written late in the process, much of this material was earmarked for a future album that did not emerge when the project took a back seat to Holcombe's extensive performing arts activities between 2006 and the present. Today, this 43-minutes of material stands as a meaty album all its own, and forms a revealing transition to Holcombe's latest album, "Into the Dark Unknown" (available February 22 2011).
"Stevia Change" and "Cool & Lonely Path" encapsulate the dreamy, mildly psychedelic influences in Holcombe's work. Those familiar with Holcombe's 2008 music theater performance, "Into the Dark Unknown: The Hope Chest," can see the throughline from these songs to the nuanced, droning existential journey of "Shallow," or the ephemeral, subconscious narrative of "The Unicorn."
Similarly, Guitar-based tracks, such as "Come Over," "Send Us the Message" and the alternate take of "Little Wrecking Ball," foreshadow the intricate two-guitar work in "Risk of Change," "Baby Blue" and "Down & Cried;" Modern, dreamy personal lyrics with classic Americana underpinnings.
The live tracks also form a bridge between then and now: "Literally the End of the World" (recorded live in December 2008 at the Doug Fir with Holcombe's ensemble, The Healers) represents the re-arranged incarnation of the 2004-penned song in Holcombe's latest touring theater piece, and the driving "Seven Eight Song" (live in 2006 at Mississippi Studios joined by backing vox by Rachel Taylor Browns and drums by Josh Hodges) begins to incorporate a sense of the basic, percussive ritualism implied in Holcombe's new recordings "I Can Feel It" and the Buffy Sainte-Marie cover, "Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan."
Above all, "O Come, Custodiangel" reveals Holcombe's strong instinct to intermingle the personal with the political, a theme that flows clearly from "Troubled Times" then to "Into the Dark Unknown" now. Like the cover artwork for suggests, our daily lives, our spiritual lives, and the machinations of our political economic backdrop are deeply interwoven. "O Come, Custodiangel" spells out an inward trajectory in the way Holcombe's writing confronts the current state of global affairs. In such a world as ours, perhaps the only way out is in.