An insightful, questioning gem, ‘Stars Of Longing’ opens the album with a snare drum cracking like a gunshot, before launching into a flowing blend of fuzzy guitar lines and reverb-drenched vocals. The track is accompanied by a captivating and touching video which premiered with FLOOD Magazine, who described it as “a shimmering slab of groovy psychedelic soul… a promising precursor to what’s to come”.
Ideal Man was produced by Sam Cohen (Kevin Morby, Benjamin Booker) and follows Combs’ critically acclaimed 5 Covers & A Song EP, which featured his interpretations of songs by The Strokes, Radiohead, Blake Mills, Lucinda Williams, and Loudon Wainwright III.
While Combs may be best known as a singer/songwriter in the classic 1970s Laurel Canyon sense of the term, he proves the true versatility of his work here, often setting his acoustic aside in favour of atmospheric synthesisers and distorted electric guitars. Captured live in Cohen’s Brooklyn studio, Ideal Man also features Combs’ longtime collaborators, drummer Dom Billet and guitarist/keyboardist/bassist Jerry Bernhardt.
A Dallas native, Combs has called Nashville home since 2006, but when it came time to record Ideal Man, he opted for a change, heading to Sam Cohen’s Jupiter Recordings in Brooklyn. “One of the things I really admired about Sam is that he wants to capture a moment,” says Combs.
“In the past, I’ve tended to pursue a studio sound that was really polished and clean, but I wanted to do something different this time, and I knew that working with Sam would lead to more of a loose, psychedelic, spaced-out vibe. We did everything live in the studio, even my vocals, and there’s a sense of immediacy and discovery in those early takes that you can’t recreate.”
Combs worked with some of his favourite writers for the album, including Joe Henry, Dylan LeBlanc, Jeff Trott and Kenny Childers, but the stories he tells here are deeply personal and remarkably vulnerable. The songwriting was partly inspired by his recent fascination with painting. Combs started painting when his wife was pregnant in 2017.
“It really changed the way that I write songs,” he reflects. “When I paint, I might start with a very abstract idea or maybe even just a feeling, but from there I’ll paint and scrape and paint and erase and keep on painting until something starts to take shape. I just let nature play out.”
Enamoured with the fresh creative avenues that painting opened up for him, Combs applied the same approach to his music, beginning songs with an emotion rather than a concept and treating lyrical and melodic ideas as raw material that could be added to or layered over at any point. When he heard the finished recordings, the songs in turn suggested entire canvases in his mind, and Combs began work on a series of oil paintings designed to accompany each track on the album. He plans on presenting the album and the paintings together in a gallery show surrounding the album release.
Fatherhood is another obvious source for Combs’ change in perspective, and the record reflects the emotional rollercoaster that comes with raising a child in such turbulent times. No longer simply an observer documenting the world as he sees it, he finds himself thrust into the role of protector and guardian on these songs, which means that joy and hope often come packaged with fear and frustration, anger and anxiety. A sense of danger and violence underlies the entire record, much as it does the entire country, but it only serves to make the moments of beauty and connection here that much more poignant.
Combs first began garnering national attention for his music with the release of Worried Man, his acclaimed 2012 debut. The record earned Combs a slot at the iconic Newport Folk Festival, alongside dates with Shovels & Rope and Houndmouth, and prompted American Songwriter to proclaim that “[as far as] first albums go, it’ll be tough to beat this as one of the year’s finest.”
Combs followed it up in 2015 with the similarly well-received All These Dreams, which landed him performances with Kacey Musgraves and Eric Church among others, and then signed to New West Records in 2017 for his breakout third album, Canyons Of My Mind. Songs from that record racked up more than 15 million streams on Spotify and prompted rave reviews from Rolling Stone and NPR, who hailed him as “one of Nashville's most poetically gifted young singer-songwriters.”
Andrew Combs will be touring Europe in support of Ideal Man in November and December, including dates in Bristol, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, and a show at London’s The Lexington on December 10th. Tickets are on sale now, and available here: https://www.andrewcombsmusic.com/tour
Ideal Man is available for pre-order now here: https://geni.us/acidealman
IDEAL MAN TRACK LISTING:
1. Stars Of Longing
2. Ideal Man
3. Like A Father
4. Save Somebody Else
5. Hide And Seek
6. Dry Eyes
8. Shipwreck Man
9. Born Without A Clue
10. The Stone
EUROPEAN TOUR 2019
27/11 – Rock & Blues Café, Zaragoza, ES
28/11 – Sala Siroco, Madrid, ES
29/11 – Riquela Club, Santiago, ES
01/12 – Kafe Antzokia-Kutxa Beltza, Bilbao, ES
02/12 – Cine Groucho, Santander, ES
04/12 – St Lawrence’s Church, Biddulph, UK
05/12 – Pleasance Cabaret Bar, Edinburgh, UK
06/12 – CCA, Glasgow, UK
07/12 – Cleeres, Kilkenny, IE
08/12 – Lost Lane, Dublin, IE
09/12 – Louisiana, Bristol, UK
10/12 – The Lexington, London, UK
11/12 – TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, NL
12/12 – Café de Amer, Amen, NL
13/12 – Stille Nacht, Rotterdam, NL