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Andrew Combs - All These Dreams

  by Owen Peters

published: 18 / 1 / 2015

Andrew Combs - All These Dreams
Label: Loose Music
Format: CD


Melancholic and reflective second album from Nashville-based singer-songwriter Andrew Combs, upon which his mature lyricism hides his surprising youth

It wasn’t until recent years that I understood the term young love. I always defined the phrase for teenagers starting their journey of affection. All innocence, fearless, naive to the hurdles which lay ahead. As with singer-songwriters, you have to get those decades under your pen before life's mistakes, heartaches and regrets can be expressed in any meaningful verse or rhyme. Then an album comes along which makes a mockery of experience counting for anything at all. 'All These Dreams', by the Nashville-based singer-songwriter Andrew Combs, has ridiculously mature lyrics flowing through its eleven songs. If love has recently dealt you a cruel blow, buckle up as it’s a bumpy ride ahead. The album opens with 'Rainy Day Song', taking us headlong into a lost life resulting from a lost love. “ Ain’t it funny how a little thunder starts to make a man wonder/Should he swim or just go under?” he sings. The simplicity of an aching steel guitar sets the mood, none more so when he pines “...funny how you learn to pray when your blue skies turn grey.” Life doesn’t get any better in 'Nothing to Lose' - "Someone out in the rain/ Looking at his dishevelled reflection in a window pane/Counting coins for a bottle of wine.” I’m already wondering if these are true events, self-biographical. The layering of his voice on the chorus line of “A man with nothing fighting for something” is subtle in it’s delivery. A soft percussion and tambourine filters through 'Strange Bird' which lifts the mood and tempo. Here we have a variety of birds being an analogy of the differing women he has met on his travels. Although none fit the bill, he believes there is a bird on a wire somewhere, waiting for him. He also has a whistling section which is as risky as pretending you can play the harmonica. No worries, he pulls it off. Except for the tracks 'Pearl' and 'Name of You', all the songs are co-written. 'Pearl' is exactly that, a pearler. For some reason Combs' voice has dropped a couple of octaves for this one. He sounds as if his larynx has been soaked in bourbon. He’s touching on Tom Waits territory here. 'Pearl' is a philosophical tale, offering up a multitude of drunks, whores, ex-prisoners, bent cops. Don’t make assumptions on what you see. These current lives may have hidden talents. “A pearl in the rubble/A rainbow from a puddle” Those lyrics sum up not only the song, the characters in the song but Combs' skills as a wordsmith. An introduction of strings and some deft steel guitar fingerpicking makes this a powerful, observational track. A piano solo lays bare the emotion of 'In the Name of You' and the sensitivity of its lyrics - "Without you my sun would fall/My skies would cry.” A roaring string section is just waiting around the corner, but instead we have strings as light as an evening breeze in summer. To hear this played live would be be worth the admission fee alone. With Combs' diversity of lyrical content and vocal dexterity, you can’t help but match certain songs to other artists. With 'All These Dreams', Jackson Browne is in the house. Lovers are apart, one unable to sleep, insecure in his dreams, doubt and concern ruining his night. “I can’t turn off my mind sometimes," Combs sings. He decides to call and explain how he’s feeling, and ask if she is all alone. Musically this is a really strong mix of an up tempo beat by Ian Fitchuck on drums, neat guitar strumming and those trusty strings. All in all a restless night in a lonely bed is easy to envisage here. Redemption comes to call with 'Slow Road to Jesus'- “I’m lost, I’m cold, I’m drunk again.” Once again there is the drop in vocal key. It’s such a deep, lazy lost song it sounds as if someone has woken him up to sing the track. Once he hits the chorus, it’s turns into a gentle country waltz. The timing is perfect. 'Suwannee County' is home, physical and spiritual. This is his heaven, fishing, standing on a muddy river bank. As he lays his body on sacred ground and looks up, he reckons, “If you connect the dots you can see God's face”. His spiritual storytelling, his imagery and descriptive lyrics of this backwater county wouldn’t go amiss if sung by a church choir. The production team of Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson have propelled Combs into another upwards wrung in his young musical career. Their input offers a complexity of arrangements which come across as simple and uncluttered. This in turn allows Combs' raw lyricism to be heard, enjoyed and experienced, including the undoubted pain. He has six tour dates in the UK during late January and early February. I may see you in the queue. Oh, and get someone to check this boy's birth certificate

Track Listing:-
1 Rainy Day Song
2 Nothing To Lose
3 Foolin'
4 Stange Bird
5 Pearl
6 Long Gone Lately
7 In the Name of You
8 All These Dreams
9 Slow Road To Jesus
10 Month of Bad Habits
11 Suwannee County

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