April 22, 2024

Andrews Combs – ‘Sundays’ – “A tasty and quietly immersive experience”

LOOSE MUSIC         19 August 2022

Something lost in the streaming revolution is the awareness of the record label. A decent small label will have a distinctive style of curatorship that brings new things to your attention. Loose Music is one of those – it is always worth checking out their releases. They might not always be brilliant but there is a fair chance they’ll be individual and interesting. ‘Sundays’ is both of these and quietly brilliant.

Here we have Andrew Comb’s fifth album release and it is personal and grounded in American roots without being tied down. Songs are quiet and thoughtful but it swings along with interesting arrangements and late-night melodies. I’m new to his music but apparently this is a break with expectations and that’s fine by me. These songs are delivered in small arrangements, by small band, woodwind sounds and clarinet. They muse on death, what it means to be a man, escaping pressures and expectations. Following a mental breakdown in the winter of 2020, it seems Combs took to going to a studio every Sunday and recording a song he’d written that week. Whether it did him good, I don’t know, but it did me good.

The sound is consciously in mono, which is a strange thing to those oldies who listen on Hi-Fis or headphones but means something to a man coming down from big scale sounds. Born in Texas but living in Nashville, Andrew has the music world all around but drew his world in small with transcendental meditation, dug deep into experience and dragged a song up from his deeps each week. The result is a slow and introspective Sunday, lyrically speaking but gentle and flowing, musically speaking, halfway between a quietly rolling country band and a chamber ensemble. Listen to the clarinet fill on The Ship for colour. He considers the way we see surfaces on people, rather than the man they are, how daft we can be before maturity hits (but who’d miss being that person?), and his spiritual experience of living outside organised religion – ‘(God)less’. “God still lives on in Godlessness”, he says.

Check out ‘Anna Please’, the second track for delicacy of playing and robustness of tune, reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac in the Seventies. ‘Still Water’ grooves along nicely with Comb’s voice weaving in and out of the rhythm with water metaphors. Or ‘Adeline’ is a sweetie too, as he hymns a doomed relationship as he feels like a boy in the body of a man – nothing new but the rhymes and melody are a joy.

The sound’s woodwinds make me think of something like Sinatra’s ‘Close To You’ in tone, since the woodwind comes close in range to the human voice and colours our tonal experience, adding inexpressible meaning. It isn’t a chamber orchestra and the electric guitar and lap steel keep us in comfortable territory but the slight tonal difference makes for a meditative focus. The album keeps us listening for each quiet picture of a song until the sparse leave-taking of ‘Shall We Go’ bringing near falsetto vocals to what sounds like a harmonium and bidding us leave to our own place.

A tasty and quietly immersive experience.

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