To say Luke Combs second album is hotly anticipated is an understatement. With a debut album – ‘This One’s For You’ – that still reigns at number one, boasts five number one singles and has equalled Shania Twain’s record for 50 weeks at number one on Billboard’s top country albums chart, the benchmark is high. But this album delivers, with every single track.
This is an open heart, heart on sleeve, heart-warming, breaking album. However we are defining country music these days, Luke Combs is it. Big full band party tracks are in abundance, with songs such as ‘Beer Never Broke My Heart’ and ‘1,2 Many’ sure to be covered in every bar on Broadway.
Of course, half the album is no surprise and well before it landed the EP, ‘The Prequel’, had served up the first five tracks. It was a clever release, cementing the songs as fan favourites in advance and seeding the album’s key themes. We’ve known for a while that this album would be good, the question has been how good?
The album is a real-life down-to-earth journey. In amongst the guitar-pounding fun, there are a surprising number of break-up songs such as ‘Reasons’, ‘Every Little Bit Helps’ and ‘All Over Again’, which provide a balance to upbeat tracks. The standout of these is ‘New Every Day’, which laments: “I never thought a picture was enough to bring me down/ I never knew a king-sized bed was just another place to drown/ Or how lonely lonely sounds”.
It is in ‘New Every Day’ as well as tracks like ‘Refrigerator Door’ that Combs and fellow co-writers demonstrate a golden ability to make the ordinary something special. I’m adding pictures to my fridge door as I write.
‘Does To Me’, featuring Eric Church, celebrates the underdog. Although, one would question whether either of the two men could truly claim anymore to be viewed as a “middle of the road, not much to show, underachieving, average Joe”. But this is the place Combs came from, and everyone loves the underdog. As the chorus breaks into the lines, “But I’m a hell of a lover, a damn good brother, and I wear this heart on my sleeve”, the melody is reminiscent of the lines in ‘Beautiful Crazy’: “The way that she dances, ain’t afraid to take chances and wears her heart on her sleeve’, and suggests this is a partner song, perhaps a well-earned love song to himself.
The final couple of tracks of this album, ‘Nothing Like You’ and ‘Better Together’, are an honest ode to his fiancée, and sum up the beauty of this album. Whether he’s singing about his girlfriend, brother, friends, mamma or his old man, we can all relate, and it’s delivered without airs and graces or unnecessary complexity. It doesn’t try to be clever for the sake of it. In every way, thematically, lyrically and musically the album lives up to its name – what you see really is what you get.
If there is a ‘but’ to the success of ‘What You See Is What You Get’, it’s probably that it doesn’t deliver anything notably different instrumentally to his previous album. The one notable exception is perhaps the highly effective stripped back sound at the beginning and end of ‘Dear Today’. Generally though, it’s more of the same but frankly, who cares. If album one got the party started, this album just invited fifty more of your best mates. One wonders how many more songs of this calibre Luke Combs has to give and I find myself wishing he would just pour out on tap all the ones that didn’t make the cut, because I’m yet to hear a bad song from this guy.
There are a couple of tracks that are maybe more forgettable – ‘Moon Over Mexico’ and ‘Angels Workin’ Overtime’ – but the fact that those are the least exciting shows you the calibre of this album.
‘What You See Is What You Get’ will be a success, quite obviously. But the big question looming is whether it’s good enough to propel Luke Combs into the major leagues. Best New Artist titles soon become small fry when awards for Best Male Vocalist are in sight. This week’s CMA Awards will give him a shot, but if not this time around, one would be pretty confident that this unlikely boy from North Carolina is on his way to becoming a megastar.
The new album ‘ What You See Is What You Get’ from Luke Combs in available now and you can check it out HERE whilst you can keep up to date with Luke ahead of his headline performances in Amsterdam, Berlin, Glasgow, Dublin and London at C2C: Country 2 Country in March 2020 on LukeCombs.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube
1. Beer Never Broke My Heart (Luke Combs / Randy Montana / Jonathan Singleton)
2. Refrigerator Door (Luke Combs / Jordan Brooker)
3. Even Though I’m Leaving (Luke Combs /Wyatt Durrette / Ray Fulcher)
4. Lovin’ on You (Luke Combs / Thomas Archer / Ray Fulcher / James McNair)
5. Moon Over Mexico (Luke Combs / Ray Fulcher / Dan Isbell / Jonathan Singleton)
6. 1, 2 Many (feat. Brooks & Dunn) (Luke Combs / Dan Isbell / Tyler King / Drew Parker)
7. Blue Collar Boys (Luke Combs /Erik Dylan / Ray Fulcher / Derrick Moody)
8. New Every Day (Luke Combs / Ray Fulcher / Josh Thompson)
9. Reasons (Luke Combs / Ray Fulcher / James McNair)
10. Every Little Bit Helps (Luke Combs / Chase McGill / James McNair)
11. Dear Today (Luke Combs / Erik Dylan / Rob Snyder)
12. What You See Is What You Get (Luke Combs / Barry Dean / Jonathan Singleton)
13. Does to Me (feat. Eric Church) (Luke Combs / Ray Fulcher / Tyler Reeve)
14. Angels Workin’ Overtime (Luke Combs / Josh Phillips / Josh Thompson)
15. All Over Again (Luke Combs / Corey Crowder / Ray Fulcher)
16. Nothing Like You (Luke Combs / Drew Parker / Robert Williford)
17. Better Together (Luke Combs / Dan Isbell / Randy Montana)