The sophomore slump is no match for Andrew Combs.
Somehow the Texas-born, Nashville-residing singer-songwriter packs it all into his second full-length, "All These Dreams," in a way that every track stands out on its own and no listener can go without finding at least one tune that fits their preference. Rock, country and folk meld together in a simple, but satisfying way, and lyrics straddle the line between artful and catchy.
If anything's missing, it's the commercial over-production that turns small pieces into radio bait. Simplicity lets the tenderness shine through without coating it in artificial sweetener. This coincides with the theme, which can be heard in the second track, "Nothing to Lose." Combs writes, "A man with nothing is fighting for something - God bless nothing to lose."
He certainly puts it all out there, incorporating very personal writing and some of the best aspects of rock and folk's biggest names, both from yesterday and today. "Rainy Day" is a cross between Jim Croce's poetry and Ed Sheeran's emotion, heard in the morose romanticism of the lyrics and the catches of his voice. Elton John can be heard in every driving piano note in "In the Name of You," one of the best songs, which would be better as a closer than lost in the middle.
Not only are the sounds classic, but also the subject matter, which focuses on the early- to mid-life confusion of any average person. "Foolin'" describes the plight of a man lost between the life he's expected to lead and the life he dreams of - "If I don't stand for something, they say 'I guess you're good for nothing,'" 28-year-old Combs sings. Then there's "Strange Bird," an anthem for the manic pixie dream girls (and the men who seek them) in any indie romantic comedy film released after 2008.
Combs' newest offering has something to please almost all listeners, provided they're not looking for a Super Bowl halftime show. But that's the beauty of his work. "All These Dreams" might not include a Beverly Hills mansion and judging gig on a prime time singing competition, but it does encompass something much more admirable - the hope for humility today and redemption tomorrow.