Americana singer songwriter Andrew Combs moved to Nashville 11 years ago. Combs grew up in a comfortable middle class home in Dallas Texas and began songwriting at a young age. One quote of Andrew’s that is given on his website speaks to the type of artist that he is as well as the reason his songs sound the way that they do. It starts out with a friend asking him “Ever heard of a happy song?” Combs response to this question was “Tabs on me if you think I’m lying, laughing ain’t a pleasure till you know about crying.” There’s a certain artistic brilliance to the songwriting and storytelling of Andrew Combs. The way he is able to conjure up images and metaphors in his songs is something that should be admired. Plenty of songs on this album can be interpreted in different ways therefore, the conclusions I make in regards to meaning may be different than you get.
The album opens up with what is the most uptempo track on the record “Heart of Wonder.” The music really stands out on this song with a mix of piano, guitar and drums. This is one of the tracks on the album that I think can be open to interpretation and my interpretation is that the man in this song is always searching. He never finds what he is looking for and he is a bit of a free spirit. The transition to the darker songs on the album comes in the next track “Sleep Walker.” After the love of his life leaves him he has trouble sleeping. He sleep walks in search of this woman and there are times where he confuses his dreams with reality. There’s nothing that she can do to help him even if she wanted to unless she was willing to take him back.
“Dirty Rain” is one of the songs on this record that is a commentary of our society the other being “Bourgeois King.” “Where are all the pretty places? Where did they go” Combs sings in “Dirty Rain.” He is talking about the destructive force that mankind has been to the environment. He ponders what future generations of children will say when all they have to play in is dirty rain. With a child on the way for Andrew Combs you would have to think this song would have an even greater meaning to him. “Bourgeois King” is a political statement made about America’s broken politics. Although Donald Trump is referenced with chants to “build a wall to keep out the enemy” and “build a wall to keep us free” the song is about American politics as a whole. With the nastiness and divisiveness that has only gotten worse over the last few years, we have seen more and more of these types of songs get released. The most recent one that I can remember is “This Old Building” from the Infamous Stringdusters.
“Hazel” is a really interesting love song with a tense vibe. The man sings of a woman named Hazel for whom he loves but is not with. She is a lonely girl who to him is beautiful and he describes his desire to be intimate with her. We are given clues that something may be off with her in some way because she is teased and mocked by children but, we aren’t told specifically why. With “Better Way” we get another love song and this one has a vintage sound to Combs’ vocals. Two people who are going through the same thing in life meet and fall in love. They both believe that there must be a better way in life. A life without fake friends and loneliness.
The major theme of this album is the idea of ending relationships and the pain that ensues and we see that in “Rose Colored Blues.” The narrator loses his love and decides to hop on a train and just leave. He doesn’t know where he is going or what he is doing but, it makes it easier to deal with the pain to just get away. In “Lauralee,” we get a different spin on the aftermath of a relationship. Lauralee is the woman that the narrator loved who passes away. The man recalls when she was alive, when the wind would blow in her hair and he would just admire her beauty. Now he feels that she is with him every time the wind blows.
“Silk Flowers” is a metaphor for what the man in this song wants but cannot have. Since his wife left him he finds himself waking up every day with a different woman in his bed. He wants so much to have a real love with his wife again just like the silk flowers wish to be real. He wonders if she ever thinks of him the way that he thinks of her all the time. The album comes to a close with “What it Means to You.” This song describes a mutual ending of a relationship. The two sides realize how great the love that they once shared was but realize that there is no point in trying again to make the relationship work. Sometimes love just slips through your hands and you need to appreciate the time that you had together instead of trying to put back together broken pieces.
I really enjoyed this album but, this album isn’t for everyone. It can be a little bit quiet in tone and organic at a time when so many musicians try to go bigger, louder and super produced. This album gets better with multiple listens and you get something different out of the album the more you listen to it. It makes me want to go farther into his discography of 2 other albums.
Grade: B+ 8.5/10
Best Songs: “Hazel,” “Bourgeois King” and “Dirty Rain”