Heard the Luke Combs hype but not sure what the fuss is all about? Hinterland's Jesse Emmanuel takes you on a journey through eight songs that will turn you into a fan.
I wasn’t one of the hundreds of thousands of people in the virtual queue for Luke Combs Australian tour tickets when they went on sale last year. Sure, “Beer Never Broke My Heart” and “1,2 Many” were obvious guilty pleasures that join the likes of Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried” and Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” as classic country songs that even non-country fans enjoy. Still, I couldn’t see why Combs had this chokehold on the country music world over some of his counterparts. So, I decided to take a deep dive into his catalogue and see what more this artist had to offer than drinking anthems…and I was pleasantly surprised. Here are the songs that won me over: 8 Luke Combs songs you need to know.
HONKY TONK HIGHWAY
Some mainstream country artists find themselves fighting off accusations of their music not being “real country”. Luke Combs will never have this problem, and Honky Tonk Highway is a great example of his old school roots and appreciation of a classic country shuffle. Listening to this track, I swear I can almost hear the tottering of cowboy boots line-dancing on a barn floor. There are unmistakable hints of Brooks & Dunn’s Boot Scootin’ Boogie. I’ll even forgive him for singing about having a one night stand on the road before going home to his baby because that sleazy guitar solo reminds you it’s all just a bit of fun.
SOUTH ON YA
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I’m surprised how much I loved this track. From the way Combs growls on those sustained notes in the verses to those tasty little guitar riffs in between the lyrics of the chorus, this is the kind of song that punches you in the face and you ask for more. The band on this track are on fire and clearly enjoying playing something heavy. Do I have any idea what it means to have a little south put on me? Nope. Who cares when it sounds this good?
COLD AS YOU
Cold As You features some of Combs’ strongest Nashville lyrics. “Them cinder block walls ain’t ever been cleaned, still ain’t as a dirty as you done me” and other such gems paint such a vivid picture of a dude who is certainly sad and heartbroken but also still stuck in the anger stage of grieving the relationship. “A picture of you on the dartboard” – yikes.
DON’T TEMPT ME
One sign of a great writer is the ability to take the same story and spin it in different ways so that it sounds new. Don’t Tempt Me is a new angle on the usual “I like drinking and partying” – it’s a reminder that right now he might be “being grown up” and cutting back on the shenanigans…but it wouldn’t take much arm twisting to get him back to the bar.
TATTOO ON A SUNBURN
From his latest album Getting’ Old, Tattoo On A Sunburn tells the lush story of a very specific memory, namely falling in love with a summer fling and spontaneously getting a tattoo of her name. He evokes such strong imagery in lines such as “The hum and the buzz and the sting of that needle faded away, but I guess some people never do” and when you learn later in the song that he’s since had the name covered up it almost feels sad and wistful…until you realise that this girl now has a whole song about her which is infinitely better than some little old tattoo.
OUTRUNNIN’ YOUR MEMORY (featuring Miranda Lambert)
I’m completely biased with this one because I am a diehard Miranda stan, but you’d probably be hard-pressed to find a country fan who wasn’t. Luke & Miranda’s voices blend surprisingly well and it’s refreshing to hear Luke crooning a little lighter when they harmonise, especially that second verse.
FOREVER AFTER ALL
Combs is fast becoming the Ed Sheeran of the country world – love songs like Beautiful Crazy and Better Together are wedding staples now as much as Perfect. But Forever After All is Combs’ Thinking Out Loud. It’s vows set to music - a promise that even as the couple grows older their love will only get stronger.
THE KIND OF LOVE WE MAKE
This song instantly reminded me (no pun intended) of Remind Me by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, about a couple who’ve been together a long time and are desperate to reignite the passion of their younger days. Where Brad and Carrie longed to rediscover romance, The Kind Of Love We Make is a much sexier take. Combs leans on his soul and R&B influences here to get you hot under the collar.