Record Of The Week # 79

November 12, 2019

Luke Combs – What You See Is What You Get

Luke Combs’ Midas touch has propelled him to the top of the charts. What You See Is What You Get will shortly take its place on top of the pile. This domination is down to his voice. It draws you in and wraps its arms around you: it’s a weapon of mass seduction. 

It’s lucky he has this voice, as the rest of his persona is hardly formulaic for the charts. He’s burly with a scruffy beard. When you ply your trade in the pretty boy world of Nashville Country then this might be seen as a handicap. Maybe having the perfect face for radio matters more? 

This is a consistent listen and easy on the ear. However, due to the similarity throughout there are few standout tracks. It seemed to be a very comforting ‘white noise’ of what I think Country Pop at its best should sound like. The backing throughout is of a rock band with those overloud/over produced ‘slappy’ drum sounds. I think a Country album should have more fiddle, lap steel guitar and banjo: any appearance here is fleeting. His latest chart single “Even Though I’m Leaving” does have mandolin; it stands out as a different more complex and interesting composition. 

Kicking off the 17-track album (he’s included his Prequel EP here) is the Number 1 single “Beer Never Broke My Heart”, a decent tune with its probable semi autobiographical punch line. Maintaining the levity is “1, 2 Many”, a drinking song and the later appearance of Brooks & Dunn is welcome. Another ‘A List’ artist, Eric Church, collects his royalties on “Does To Me” but gets blown away with his reedy tones in the duet. “Lovin’ On You” sounded like a lot of fun to record. With the usual hokum words it has a blues soul feel and enables the band to slip its shackles momentarily. I liked “Blue Collar Boys” and “Dear Today”. The former with its workingman story of simple pleasures and striving. The latter as it is mainly acoustic and comes as a respite to the electric bombardment. 

Combs co-write all the tracks. With all the other contributors then why didn’t he employ a wordsmith? The lyrics are configured with craft but there’s tedious product placement, clichés, gushing family sentiment and, oh yes, fricking ice cold beer. Pure Bro-Country. To make this album endure, past the middle of next year, it surely needed some stories that stick? None of this does: it feels temporary.

However Coombs can always deliver a hook-laden melodic chorus. His signature sound is the way he holds a note over a couple of seconds, which extracts every last drop of emotion; I can imagine a million millennials joining in as they shuffle along in morning traffic jams or sit at their work desks listening to YouTube through their headphones. This ability is not to be dismissed. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard from his so far then this is for you. Follow the voice.

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