2018 CD REVIEW
THIS ONE'S FOR YOU (S0NY-RIVER HOUSE)
HURRICANE LUKE BLOWS IN FROM ASHEVILLE – NOT NASHVILLE
“The moon went hiding/ stars quit shining/ rain was dropping/ thunder 'n lightning/ you wrecked my whole world when you came/ and hit me like a hurricane/ you hit me like a hurricane.” - Hurricane - Luke Combs-Thomas Archer-Taylor Phillips.
When nouveau new age North Carolina outlaw Luke Combs blew into Nashville from that other music mecca Asheville it was indeed a breath of fresh air in so many ways.
Combs dropped out of the fourth year of an Appalachian University degree and self-financed his debut single Hurricane in 2016 after releasing three indie EPs dating back to 2014.
That was long before he landed his major record deal.
Now, in the chilly winter of 2018, the singer is so hot his debut album has been re-released here in the unlucky radio country with five bonus tracks as This One's For You Too .
Combs, now 28, is flying high in the slipstream of chart topping Kentucky coalminer's son Chris Stapleton and Jamey Johnson.
Unlike Johnson he scores mainstream airplay and TV exposure reflected on sales charts and toured here in March with South Carolina star Darius Rucker for the CMC Rocks Queensland festival in Ipswich and a Melbourne Forum concert.
So how did it all start for Luke?
Combs first single Hurricane reached Top 10 on iTunes and debuted at 46 on Billboard - an accidental hit born from a $200 mistake that almost derailed his career.
He saved enough money for a six-song EP - that figure was based on what he paid for his first two DIY projects.
"We recorded six tracks, and when they got done producer Scott Moffatt (of 90's Canadian boy band The Moffatts ,) was like, 'Hey man, we need to master these,' and I was like, 'what's that?'" Combs revealed.
"I never mastered my first two, I just mixed them. I think the price was $200 per song, so I was like, 'I don't have $200 per song, and I'm not going to have it.'"
Combs went home as they hadn't even cut his final vocals but one song sounded good enough.
That was Hurricane.
So after scraping together enough cash Combs mastered just that track.
They released it on iTunes and it sold 14,000 copies in the first week, allowing Combs to finish the album and pay Moffatt, who was working for IOUs.
"So Hurricane - the one that's on the radio - that's the only time I ever sang it," he says of the studio version.
Combs previously released three indie EPs The Way She Rides in February 2014 and Can I Get an Outlaw that year and This One's For You in November, 2015.
The success of Hurricane ensured the third EP shared the same title as his debut album This One's For You.
WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS
“And I've been on a hell of a redneck road for three weeks now/ and it all started on the day that she walked out/ then I won a hundred bucks on a scratch off ticket/ bought two twelve packs and a tank of gas with it/ she swore they were a waste of time, oh, but she was wrong/ I was caller number five on a radio station, won a four-day, three-night, beach vacation/ deep sea, senorita, fishing down in Panama/ and I ain't gotta see my ex future mother-in-law anymore/ Oh lord, when it rains it pours.” - When It Rains It Pours - Jordan Walker-Luke Combs-Ray Fulcher.
Hurricane was followed by One Number Away, Lonely One, Beer Can, I Got Away With You , the title track and other songs, accompanied by video clips and live snapshots.
And the punch line - “I ain't gotta see my ex future mother-in-law anymore.”
Sequencing is another strong suit for Combs whose album entrée Out There sets the mood for his sprint on the wild side with fellow hell raisers before he is rescued by a dynamic damsel.
It segues into a trip back to adolescence and freedom in Memories Are Made Of , ignited by “just a couple buds and a good buzz” before taking on observations of a bartender in Lonely One and blue collar weekend bliss and miss in Beer Can .
Hurricane , fuelled by lust, lightning and wind, precedes One Number Away where the male lead uses telephonic imagery to depict a partner's solitude during separation with yet another storm metaphor.
LUKE COMBS HONKY TONK HIGHWAY
“In my Prevost/ heading down to Alabama/ I got a three night run/ we're gonna kick it off in Birmingham/ headlights, wide lines flying down 65/ try and catch a few hours' sleep/ tomorrow comes, show time/ that's when I know I'm living that neon dream.” - Honky Tonk Highway - Luke Combs-Rob Crosby-Ray Fulcher
Combs gets Biblical in the honky tonk hedonism of Don't Tempt Me where the character's drinking pal finds his night over and out in the bed of a truck with more telephonic tell-tale evidence for the morning after.
The temptation tale and another reflective booze fuelled fable This One's For You are punctuated by When It Rains It Pours.
Combs gallops down the home straight of his original album with rapid fire escape from a one horse town in Be Careful What You Wish For that is tempered by big smoke regret.
But the character's adolescent escape to Panama City ends behind bars with an Alcatraz theme as he dreams of Mona Lisa and The Louvre before he flees flashing blue lights in I Got A Way With You.
It's no surprise Combs chose the riveting road Alabama anthem Honky Tonk Highway as his fiery finale and existential exit to his bonus disc.
HOUSTON WE GOT A PROBLEM
“I got new boots covered in red dirt, a Don't Mess With Texas tee-shirt/ and a Lonestar postcard postmarked with missing you/ it's got the biggest sky you've ever seen, the coldest beer you'd ever drink/ but I still feel like I landed on the moon, 'cause it ain't got you/ Houston, we got a problem.” - Houston We Got A Problem - Luke Combs-Randy Montana-Johnathan Singleton.
Combs boots his perfect kick starter for his bonus disc into the Lone Star State stratosphere with his graphic gem Houston , We Got A Problem.
Luke's troubadour is clad in a newly acquired Don't Mess With Texas tee shirt and red dirt covered boots as he enjoys his 12 th floor hotel suite with a panoramic killer view of the Houston Astrodome .
He sips on cold beer while listening to Steve Earle's Copperhead Road but feels like he's landed on the moon when he studies his Lone Star post card Missing You .
Yes, that's the punch-line - his Houston problem is his absent belle and salient segue into another new song Must've Never Met You .
The heart's recovery is completed in fiddle and pedal steel driven Beautiful Crazy , accompanied by video filmed at Blackbird Studio in Nashville , and trip to Nirvana in A Long Way.
But nothing lasts forever - the teen dreams of an idyllic road romance fade as the singer seeks solace in his new finale She Got The Best Of Me.
Yes, you've guessed it - “now all that's left of me is beating in this guitar.”
A hard act to follow but this time we have the bonus CD to remind us what we missed when a funny thing happened that night on the way to The Forum .
That was after he performed two sold out shows at The Ryman in Nashville with Arkansas outlaw Ashley McBryde, 33, who debuted on Nu Country TV with A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega.
She followed that in a live duet with Eric Church on Bible And A .44 - a tender tribute to her late father who sired eight children on their Mammoth Springs farm - and American Scandal on her fifth album Girl Going Nowhere.
"I haven't written a lot recently because the schedule has been absolute madness, but I have a ton of stuff,” Combs recently revealed before he lost his voice and cancelled concerts during the CMA festival in June.
“I'm hoping to probably go in and cut some more stuff in November or December and have 30 or 40 songs to pick for an album two and make it the best it can be.
“As a songwriter I'm always writing and adding new songs to our set lists. Some songs I haven't released have even become staples in our shows because the fans request them.
“As we're working on the next record, the deluxe gives me the chance to say thank you to the fans for supporting my debut album and share with them some of the new music they've fallen in love with on the road with us.”
“One girl, 45 bucks was all it took that night/ at the steakhouse make-out and the movies way up in the back/ credits roll on pace/ to make it all the way to second base/ tried to play it cool like it was nothin' new/ and she don't have a clue.” - A Long Way - Luke Combs-Sam Grayson-Larry McCoy
Meanwhile Combs explored cross fertilisation of his ever expanding genre with R & B star Leon Bridges in a Lower Broadway live gig for our sibling show CMT Crossroads.
“It takes me out of my comfort zone, which I like,” Combs said during the joint interview with Bridges.
“This collaboration is super unique,” Bridges explained.
“He Combs sounds great on my songs. He's singing them better than me!”
“Oh, I don't know about that!” Combs quipped.
Bridges grew up on a steady diet of country in Texas and recently collaborated with fellow Texan Kacey Musgraves.
“I grew up on a lot of R&B music, but when I started writing songs, I was exposed to guys like Willie Nelson and Bob Wills, and I definitely identify with those guys,” Bridges explained.
“I love what they do. I love country music and I like to incorporate that in my own song-writing.”
The duo performed Bridge songs River and Coming Home and Combs tunes When It Rains It Pours and Hurricane.
“I was surprised at how good of a dude he was when we met,” Combs said.
“I was like, 'Oh I hope he's not some big celebrity guy.' He was so nice, man. Everyone in his band and crew is so nice. And they were so happy to accommodate me and my guys and that goes a long way for me.”
So will the duo join on more collaborations in the future?
“I think that would be cool, to write something,” Combs said.
Bridges replied ‘I mean, we homies now.”
Luke also shares Calgary Stampede and Big Valley Jamboree stages in Canada with Hunter Valley singer-songwriter Kirsty Lee Akers as she promotes her fifth album Under My Skin released on July 27 at Groundwater Country Music Festival at Broadbeach , Queensland .