Andrew Combs is one of the most compelling voices in country music today. If only he realized it. At a recent performance at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade, Combs quietly stated “I can’t believe people know my stuff,” before launching into another flawlessly gorgeous tune with that warm rasp of his. With each record, Combs continues to grow and mature, and on his latest, Canyons of My Mind, he plumbs the depths of his psyche to bring us something truly magnificent.
As with 2015’s incredible All These Dreams, Combs is continuing to draw inspiration from artists like Harry Nilsson and Kris Kristofferson, but where All These Dreams was full of delicious pop hooks, Canyons of My Mind is dark and haunting. Still, Combs proves he can craft a melody with such impressive precision. “Rose Colored Blues” glides and flows, with stunning guitars, acoustic and steel. “Better Way” sets us up for a more mischievous tune, with Combs’ low harmonies. He harnesses a throwback, 70s sound on this standout track about a woman with dark, magnetic charms.
Canyons of My Mind is also Combs’ sexiest record to date. “Better Way” and “Hazel”, a song about a peeping Tom, creep and slink, shadowy and intriguing. Combs really develops the characters that live inside his songs on Canyons of My Mind, finding the nuances that make us want to know more and that leave us feeling like we know them.
Combs crafted much of Canyons of My Mind while living in a cabin in the middle of the woods on his honeymoon, and that deep isolation is evident. “Dirty Rain” is a moody meditation on the deteriorating conditions of planet earth, and a grim message for future generations. “Where are all the pretty places?/Where did they go?” Combs sings sweetly.
“Heart of Wonder” is an epic journey toward self-actualization that leaves Combs still searching, and “Lauralee” is a pastoral tribute to an old lover. The gliding harmonies and nuanced creative decisions Combs makes on notes and articulation are thoughtful and purposeful.
Canyons of My Mind is an elevated, sophisticated record from an artist coming more and more into his own.