The three albums released by Nashville singer-songwriter Andrew Combs so far read like his personal journal. The youngest chapter, Worried Man, is stripped down and vulnerable, leaden with introspection and poetic pleading. All These Dreams was a slow shift outside his own heartache, introducing variations in tone and pop sensibility. His latest, Canyons Of My Mind, continues this maturation with the introduction of existential ruminations, more ominous orchestral moments and the slightest taming of his twang in exchange for a higher register.
The follow-up to 2015's excellent All These Dreams, Canyons of My Mind delivers another sepia-toned blast of high, lonesome, and heartfelt Americana that dexterously weaves together the warmth of classic '70s singer/songwriters like Ian Matthews and Don McLean with the cordial indie folk-rock of contemporaries like the Avett Brothers and the Lumineers. Co-produced by Skylar Wilson and Jordan Lehning, both of whom worked on his last record, the 11-track set features some of Combs' strongest writing and crooning to date. Built around some lofty themes -- Combs has cited sustainability as the narrative through-line -- Canyons of My Mind feels personal, and that sense of intimacy extends to the arrangements as well, which, outside of a few soaring moments, are less overtly countrypolitan this time around.
Look no further than the muted, hazy cover and inner sleeve photos of a solitary Andrew Combs seeming small and overwhelmed by the nature around him to get a sense of the overall vibe emanating from his first album since 2015's breakthrough. Between the ripped from the headlines social commentary of "Bourgeois King" ("We'll build a wall to block the enemy/ build a wall to keep us free") set against sawing strings, fluttering flute, strangulated guitar and an insistent beat, and the melancholy emptiness of searching for a lost lover in "Sleepwalker" ("I'm sleep-calling out your name") atop a bed of brushed drums, drifting pedal steel and rubbery stand-up bass, Combs doesn't sound like a guy who just got married to his longtime girlfriend between the release of this and his previous disc. That's especially the case where he pines for the unrequited love of "Hazel" ("Oh Hazel, I dream each night about your love"), laments the loss of "Lauralee" ("the bed that you once shared with me/ lies there like my enemy") with a haunted emptiness in his already emotionally gripping hushed voice, and realizes the relationship with an unnamed woman is over in "What it Means to You" ("It was good the first time/ but all good things must end").