Album review: Andrew Combs – Canyons of My Mind

The instrumentation in the album’s opening track, Heart of Wonder, layers up as if to underscore the metaphysical journey the song describes. Insistent alarm-like sounds, muddy riffs and free jazz brass set a busy, controlled-chaos soundscape.

Sleepwalker’s backing track also matches the rhythms described in the lyrics. A dream-like soft bossa beat drifts in and out as Combs sings “you can’t help me if you don’t want me…confusing dreaming with maybe believing that you’d come wandering back this way.” It’s equal parts wistful and wishful.

Dirty Rain has a sweet sound but a harsh message. It’s an apocalyptic view of a world taken for granted. Strings and a falsetto vocal wrap around the dark predictions: “poisoned river, muddy water, a dead man’s floor.”

Hazel drops it down a key. It’s a slow gypsy blues love song. Combs sets the scene poetically, painting a picture of dark eyes, lonely nights and silence. Unlike the previous song, the sole sense of hope and salvation is found in nature: “they can’t see how she shines in the rain.”

Rose Colored Blues has a lighter touch. The chorus warms up with strings and the slightest twang. It’s the anthem of a lonesome man: “he might charm a pretty face to keep him warm…lost love and slow trains whichever way you choose.” Importantly, it’s a lament that refuses to lament. The lifestyle is a choice not a burden: “it don’t ever get too bad when you got them rambling rose colored blues.”

Better Way has a western sound but it’s not about another lonesome rider. This one is a love song. With strings, of course! The romance is clear: “found your eyes/they were drifting out toward mine.”

Lauralee is a piano led song with a gentle Lennon lilt. The languorous tone is relaxing, belying the sorrow within: “the bed that you once shared with me lies there like my enemy/such a clever thief to steal my sleep.”

Blood Hunters has a 90s Sub Pop sound. It’s  down-tuned but melodic with jangly riffs. It holds a play on the album’s title: “high on sin/carving craters in your mind.”

Silk Flowers brings the pace back down, all lonesome and earnest: “My love is like these roses, dying to be true/withered, worn and waiting to find my way back to you.” Yet again, the role of rain is important. This time, it’s longed for and restorative: “silk flowers forgotten on a lonely windowpane/dusty, dreaming of the day they’d touch the satin rain.”

Bourgeois King is the most direct song on the album, and its target needs no explanation: “feed us fiction and fabrication/make this country great again…build a wall to block the enemy/build a wall to keep us free.” The instrumentation gets increasingly direct and jarring, as if to echothe confrontational politics it describes.

The album closes with What It Means To You, a classic country duet with Caitlin Rose. Interestingly, it undercuts the album’s previous stance. Until now, Combs has sung from the perspective of a forsaken lover hoping for reconciliation, surviving on memories and dreams. Here, the harmonious duet is a reality check from the other side: “sometimes love just slips through your hands…You can keep all the memories that you’re holding on to/I’ve already let go of what it means to you.” The message is painfully clear: it’s over. As for the relationship, so for the record.

Canyons of My Mind is incontrovertible evidence that Loose Music have another compelling talent on their roster. It’s a lush record showcasing Combs’ velvety voice and his intertwined interests of mind, women and song.

Visit andrewcombsmusic.com to order the record.

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