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Luke Combs leaves listeners with mixed feelings

Nov 13 • Arts & Leisure • 463

I’m coming out of my comfort zone with this one, meaning I will be listening to a country album. I will be talking about Luke Combs and his new album, “What You See Is What You Get.”
Now, I want to clear something up. I don’t hate country music, but I do not like “pop-country.” An example of this is Luke Bryan. He used to push an album out every year, which did not allow for the quality to catch up to the quantity.
I actually like older country, the kind that doesn’t just talk about beers and tractors. I am partial to artists like John Denver, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton.
Historically, country music touches on the same themes over and over again.
Combs is not immune to following these themes. The ones that I noticed that he hits are blue-collar lifestyle, booze, nostalgia, reflection on the past and some subtle religious references.
There are probably more that I didn’t catch.
He intertwined these themes throughout this album. Based on the song titles I expected more unimaginative lyrics, but can’t say that I was disappointed with this project.
“What You See Is What You Get” is only the second album he has released, but Luke Combs has been popular in the country music scene for some time, and his singles have reached notable commercial success.
Of course, the first track on the album is called “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” but I tried to go about this objectively.
Honestly, I couldn’t help but tap my foot to his songs, but that’s the point of country music. Simple and catchy melodies carry this genre. This album is without a doubt a country album, but I appreciate the harder guitar styling in his more upbeat songs at the beginning of the album.
I was caught off-guard by the switch up in the middle of the album when Combs changes to a more raw cut in “Dear Today.”
This does a good job of breaking up the album so that the listener don’t get bored.
This song starts off and ends with a style like you’re in the same room listening to him mess around on a guitar.
This type of “not-really-there” style takes listeners outside of the experience of the album.
It allows them to dissociate themselves from automatic approval that can come with listening to a style that they are already partial to.
Instead, it challenges the listener to actually digest the material upon first listen, which is a hard thing to accomplish. What makes Comb’s attempt at this so successful is that “Dear Today” is so different from the rest of the album.
This song says, here we are sharing this intimate listening adventure. This break-down allows the audience to have a feeling that they are not listening to this song due to happenstance.
“Dear Today” separates itself from the rest of the album in such a way that I can’t get that song out of my head. I have to say it’s my favorite off this album.
This album surprised me in the fact that I actually liked some of these songs on first listen. I think this shows that Combs is somehow able to bridge the gap between stylistic preferences.
Maybe it’s the fact that Combs taps into an older style of country music that isn’t so superficial. He also contains hints of modern R&B in his music.
I commend artists who aren’t cookie-cutters, especially today when so many things are driven solely by monetary gain.
This is not saying that I enjoyed the whole album. Like I said, country songs that are “basic” do not sit well with me and I don’t know that they ever will.
My previous opinion about country music definitely influenced my listening experience.
Also, I don’t feel like I can make the definitive decision if this is a good country album or not since I am not habitually a fan of this genre.
Although, since listening to this album I will most definitely be more open to country music.
Maybe there are some redeemable songs in this era of country music.

RACHEL MACKOWIAK
mackowia001@gannon.edu

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