Photos and review by Chaz Brooks
“It’s good to be back in London” says Andrew Combs at the Dalston Victoria. He means it as it’s only six months since his last UK tour.
Alone on stage with his acoustic guitar Combs has no place to hide. Hiding is not in his musical DNA. Brutally honest songs, perfectly crafted and expertly delivered, are.
In a 100-minute, 16-track intimate set Combs showed that he is a master storyteller.
Song after song flowed beautifully, Month of Bad Habits was followed by Rainy Day Song, the song he co-wrote with Brent Cobb “the first time I hung out with him” and has been recently covered by Lee Ann Womack. “Brent calls this song Shine on Rainy Day and Lee Ann can call it what the hell she likes” he quipped dryly.
Combs quoted the Harlan Howard saying that a great country song has “three chords and the truth” and he’s putting that into practice with a new song Like A Feather that he’s written for his wife, “which I’m playing for her as today is her birthday.”
The uptempo Rose Colored Blues is one of the highlight tracks from Combs’ latest album Canyons of My Mind. Suwannee County “a song about fishing, God and the connection between the two” was swiftly followed by an incredible version of Dirty Rain, “my tree-hugging song. I spend a lot of time outdoors and I’m appalled at the way we treat our planet.” Combs does angry in a calm, gentle manner.
Born Without A Clue is “a brand spanking new song that I started writing when Tom Petty died. He was the master of simplicity, hitting you in the heart with a way of cutting through the bullshit. That’s what I’m trying to do with this one.”
Another new song “Fire Starter is “about a character who’s a bit deviant who keeps entering my life and won’t go away”
Lauralee followed, co-written with Joe Henry “who lives in Colorado and doesn’t own a PC or a smartphone” and Too Stoned To Cry, “one of the few old songs of mine that I like playing.” Then Blood Hunters “a song about losing your mind, which happens a few times a year for me” he joked.
A stunning rendition of Hazel closed the main set and, departing from his setlist, Combs returned for an encore of crowd requests. He said two but did three: Please Please Please, Strange Bird and Foolin’ which had the crowd singing along, not normally something you associate with Combs.
On the train back I asked two ladies who had been at the gig for their thoughts. Anna said “9 and a half out of ten” to which her friend Becky replied “Why not ten?”
Words in my notebook included magical, mesmerising, captivating. Combs is this and more. Whether playing solo or with his band he delivers quality material with panache.
Keep an eye on this site for a forthcoming interview with Combs.