Andrew Combs

Canyons of My Mind – 2017 (New West)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Andrew Combs

The title alone conjures up visions of windswept California hills and valleys, Topanga Canyon sunsets and Laurel Canyon's hippie hideaways, circa the late '60s/early '70s. Andrew Combs emulates that sensibility to the fullest, and with "Canyons Of My Mind," he further embeds himself in the classic singer/songwriter template of that hallowed era. Not so distant echoes of Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell, Nilsson and John Phillips are firmly embedded in that sacred firmament, and though Combs may not be of the age to relate to that now distant heritage, he certainly shows the skills and savvy needed to conjure up comparisons.

Now residing in Nashville, Combs seems cognizant of a tradition he's done well to sustain, whether consciously or not. His gentle delivery, combined with melodies that sooth and sway, make the new album a perfect anecdote for these embattled times. The wistful musings of "Dirty Rain" accelerate to an upper register with the following truck "Hazel" and eventually soar with the closing chords of "What It Means To You."

While the mellow mood is mostly sustained throughout, as Combs winds his way to the album's conclusion, he takes serious aim at society's ills. "Bourgois King" in particular finds him ranting about "Parasites and politicians, Intertwined and holding hands/Feed us fiction and fabrication/Make this country great again." The not so slight dig at Donald Trump in those last couple of lines doesn't go unnoticed, and yet nestled in the otherwise sweet and serene surroundings of the set's other songs, it almost seems an afterthought. Combs' sardonic sentiments aside, "Canyons of My Mind" is as effortlessly expressive as the title implies, a sound step forward for an artist who's earned every ounce of admiration this effort deserves.