All These Dreams
4 out of 5 stars
Look no further than the cover photo of a serious, sleepy-eyed and seemingly confident Andrew Combs contrasted against a somber black background to get a feel for the music inside. The Nashville by way of Texas singer-songwriter ups his game for this self-assured sweetly melodic sophomore release.
Not only does every song hit the mid-late ’70s LA rock and countrypolitan (think Glen Campbell at his most straightforward) mark, but the production by Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson perfectly captures the windswept tunes and somewhat darker lyrical spirit of Combs’ material. Just in time for spring 2015, these beautifully crafted and arranged tracks arrive like the first warm zephyr of the season, emerging from the speakers with occasional orchestrations deepening Combs’ easy rolling vocals.
Those pining for the Jayhawks’ Rainy Day Music era sound need only skip to track three and eight since “Foolin’” and “All These Dreams” with their floating melodies and honeyed strumming could easily have fit on that album. The wet theme continues with the soothing opener “Rainy Day Song” that feels like a great lost Jim Croce tune.
Combs’ unaffected, breezy vocals, similar to a combination of Gary Louris and Rodney Crowell, mesh effortlessly with the songs and especially the occasionally lush production. On “Slow Road to Jesus,” the album’s lone waltz time selection, he talks about those searching for something to make life worthwhile. And you are unlikely to hear a more affecting breakup song this year than “Month of Bad Habits,” especially as the strings and Steelism’s quivering pedal steel guitars close the song. The upbeat “Strange Birds” has a bouncy McCartney feel that along with a whistling solo makes for a smile inducing two and a half minutes. Combs even leans towards Roy Orbison country with the widescreen “Long Gone Baby,” complete with tympani and strings, arguably this disc’s most touching and impressive moment.
The average song clocks in at just over three minutes with the eleven tracks wrapping up in a compact 40 minutes. That’s just enough time to let Combs’ laidback style sink in, but like the best albums, also leaves you wanting more from where this came from.