“Hurricane” is the one we all know, the number one radio smash comparing a woman to a natural disaster. It’s got four chords in the pleasant order we are accustomed to hearing them in – it’s “I Hope You Dance” sung by a man with a beard – but is that a good representation of Luke Combs? Only by quality, as the rest of the album is even better.
The album’s first sixteen seconds are miscellaneous ambient sounds: plowing a field out in the truck? The first song, “Out There”, is a typical contemporary country song about love and stuff, with a neat guitar solo. It comes off a little Aldean, a little Brantley (with whom Combs is out on the road this summer) and the vocals are well-executed. There’s soul in Combs’ voice, and the tune is strong.
The production on the project is spot-on, and enhances the radio-friendliness of “One Number Away” and “Memories Are Made Of”, both obvious future singles. On Side B, “Don’t Tempt Me” carries a funky slide guitar and rhymes “wild and reckless” with “beer at breakfast“. Is he in character, or is this really Combs? He did write every song, so props to a genuine talent, in both senses of the word; “don’t tempt me with a good time“, all the same, is a great lyric.
“I Got Away With You” is a Stapleton-esque ballad with the guitar dropped to sound in D-flat on the bottom string, which gives way to backwards guitar on “Honky Tonk Highway”, a Southern stomper that nods to music from 1993 (think Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn and Alan Jackson), as Luke begins to live “that neon dream” in the lyric and in real life.
Bottom line, Combs fits into the new Nashville class. Nashville needs new talent like any other industry. It needs more women, but Luke can be the token bloke to make it big. So can Brett Young, Brothers Osborne, Dan + Shay, Kane Brown, Drake White… There’s no shortage of talented young men coming through Music City. Combs debut solidifies his place among them, and the project is an overall success. There’s art here too, and a bright talent who could potentially headline festivals one day.
Catch Combs on tour (dates here) and listen to This One’s For You on Spotify.