Videos by American Songwriter
4.5 out of 5 stars
Luke Combs’ last album, Growin’ Up, saw him write from the perspective of a young man who was aiming to reach new heights in the music industry. He set his focus on the usual country talking points – girls, bars and small-town life – but, gave them a fresh coat of paint via his soul-bearing vocals. That record spawned the massive single “The Kind of Love We Make” and earned Combs both a CMT Artist of the Year nod and a CMA Entertainer of the Year trophy.
His latest record, Gettin’ Old, takes everything shiny about Growin’ Up and tinges it with maturity. Like in his previous work, Combs reminisces about the good times, falls in love and finds happiness in the simple things on this record. He manages to put some space between himself and the stories he tells this time, filling in the gaps with the hard-won knowledge that comes along with fatherhood and stardom.
“This album is about the stage of life I’m in right now,” Combs previously shared of the record. “It’s about coming of age, loving where life is now but at the same time missing how it used to be, continuing to fall for the one you love and loving them no matter what, living in the moment but still wondering how much time you have left, family, friends, being thankful, and leaving a legacy.”
Combs manages to hit every mark he laid out in just 18 tracks, expounding upon those ideas – family, friends and legacy – to their extent without sacrificing one second of mainstream radio appeal.
The album opens up with a slow-burning song titled “Growin’ Up and Gettin’ Old.” As one could probably glean from the title, the song holds the tension between his last release and this one.
Moreover, it settles the listener in for what’s in store for the rest of the record. In some songs, Combs puts his fatherhood into focus and dotes on his wife, while in others he reminds us he can still raise hell and throw the hammer down when he wants to. It’s a duality that will no doubt appeal to an audience that is balancing growing up and holding on to youth right alongside Combs.
Combs is known for his stellar love songs and he continues that string of success on Gettin’ Old. Though there are a number of tracks in the usual love song vein (“Love You Anyway” and “Hannah Ford Road”), he tweaks that idea slightly several times across the record, writing songs about the love of a father. Two of the album’s high points come from that affinity – “Take You With Me” and “See Me Now.”
“Take You With Me” is written from the perspective of a son who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. If it was up to me we do everything together / When you’re young like that you think those days last forever / Didn’t know back then how much those words would mean / “I’ll take you with me,” Combs sings with his trademark rasp. Elsewhere he takes the perspective of a son telling his late father about the ups and downs of his life since he passed. I’d like to think you’d be the proudest guy in town / If I could see you / See me now, he sings. Both songs are rich in emotion and some of Combs’ best storytelling to boot.
The entirety of Gettin’ Old is well-balanced. The up-tempo bangers flow smoothly into the softer ballads and back again. The album doesn’t seem to have much of a weak link but, if we had to pick a standout from the pack of standouts, it would be “You Found Yours.”
Combs puts his soul into this one. His voice is powerful as it ever has been during the chorus but, he settles down into his lower range for the verses. A fresh coat of blue paint on a bedroom wall / Turns to two little feet running up and down the hall / Now its plain as day what you’re down here for / If you were looking for a reason, buddy, you found yours, he sings in the bridge, cutting straight to the heart of the listener.
“You Found Yours” has everything Combs hoped this album would be: nods to family, friends, memories and the future he’s building.
Combs does something special with Gettin’ Old. It’s equal parts ambitious and familiar. Those interested in the life Combs has been living between album releases can dig into these lyrics and find something deeply emotive. Those who just want to tap their toe along to an anthem or two will be satisfied as well. Gettin’ Old is an album that lives up to Combs’ reputation and will likely only bolster it even more.
(Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for SiriusXM)