by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword) for FolkAlley.com
Prince was right: Albums still matter. And Andrew Combs seems to know that. He also seems to know that songs and production also matter, if the album is to be worth its weight in vinyl. On ‘All These Dreams,’ it’s obvious — even with a casual listen — that Combs put his focus on the songs first and everything else followed from there. The model is the same as the one employed by the singer/songwriters of the late ’60s and early ’70s to which this album nods and winks — guys like Glen Campbell, Jim Croce, Paul Simon, Mickey Newbury, James Taylor, and Harry Nilsson.
From the opening steel strains of “Rainy Day Song” on through the closing coda that is “Suwannee County,” Combs’ melodies and voice, coupled with Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson’s production, manage to look back while facing forward. It’s a fairly miraculous musical feat the team has achieved here. Even though Combs hasn’t even hit 30 yet, “Nothing to Lose” is straight out of 40 years ago; “Long Gone Lately” — with its timpani, tremolo, and castanets — would make Roy Orbison proud, if not jealous; and “In the Name of You” rivals all the best Jackson Browne piano ballads.
The comparatively rollicking romp of “Foolin'” also recalls Orbison even as it takes on the falsity of lives presented on social media. That’s the beauty of contrasting worlds at play, right there. While the chipper ditty that is “Strange Bird,” the country yarns of “Pearl” and “Suwannee County,” and the mildly defiant heartbreak in “Bad Habits” all call from different corners, Combs, Lehning, and Wilson do a superb job of coaxing them into the fold. As more nuanced part of the intricate arrangements, even Combs’ lazy diction and casual delivery lend themselves to the vintage vibe. He doesn’t attack these songs; he leads them, ever so gently to where they need to be. Tack on Steelism’s Jeremy Fetzer (guitars) and Spencer Cullum Jr. ( pedal steel) along with bassist Mike Rinne and drummer Ian Fitchuk, and you have yourself one hell of a record.
Andrew Combs’ ‘All These Dreams’ will be released on March 3 on Coin Records and is available HERE: