Andrew Combs

Proud Larry's Presents...

Andrew Combs

The Kernal

Tue · October 10, 2017

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

$10.00

This event is 18 and over

Andrew Combs
Andrew Combs
“Ever heard of a happy song?”

That question is posed to Andrew Combs in “Rainy Day Song”, the lead track on his acclaimed 2015 album All These Dreams, during a barstool chat with a sarcastic friend. The singer – offended but gracious – smiles and allows the moment to pass, eschewing confrontation for the sake of a gem he polishes as an afterthought for the listener: “Tab’s on me if you think I’m lying / Laughing ain’t a pleasure till you know about crying.” The moment, full of the understated charm and pulsing honesty that defines his music, and is as good a metaphor as any for the songcraft of Andrew Combs.

A Dallas native now living near the same Nashville airport immortalized in the opening sequence of Robert Altman’s country music odyssey, Andrew Combs is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and heir to that 1975 film’s idea of the Nashville troubadour as a kind of musical monk. Here in the twenty-first century whorl of digital narcissism, where identity can feel like a 24/7 social media soft-shoe performance, Combs makes music that does battle with the unsubtle. Like the pioneering color photographer William Eggleston, he sees the everyday and the commonplace as the surest paths to transcendence, and he understands intuitively that what is most obvious is often studded with the sacred. As a songwriter, Combs relies on meditative restraint rather than showy insistence to paint his canvases, a technique commensurate with his idea of nature as an overflowing spiritual wellspring. NPR music critic Ann Powers noted as much in a 2015 review: “His song-pictures are gorgeous, but he recognizes their impermanence as he sings.” This deeply felt sense of ecology, of the transient beauty within nature’s chaotic churn, lies at the heart of Combs’s approach to his art.

After touring behind All These Dreams, a record that earned him international accolades and comparisons to everyone from Leonard Cohen to Mickey Newbury to Harry Nilsson, Combs has returned with a new album that puts down stakes in fresh sonic terrain. Canyons of My Mind, out in March on New West, is — as its title suggests — a landscape where the personal and the pastoral converge. Drawing inspiration from the biographies of literary figures like Charles Wright and Jim Harrison, Combs has created an album that explores the notion of “sustainability” in its many facets — artistic, economic, spiritual, environmental.

"When I set out to record All These Dreams, I had a distinct vision of what I wanted the record to sound like. It was a cocktail of the Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell, Nilsson vibes that you can hear right there on the surface," Combs says. "Canyons of My Mind is much more personal. It’s a testament to my acceptance of who I am as a man, and who I am becoming.” The record’s sonic adventurousness bears witness to that evolution, as well as to some big changes in his personal life. Between All These Dreams and Canyons, Combs married his longtime girlfriend Kristin, with whom he honeymooned for six weeks in the Minnesota wilderness. “She walks through her life exuding such open-mindedness and kindness,” Combs says. “I can’t help but watch in awe. She lets me be whoever I want to be, and that’s new to me. And quite refreshing, and freeing.”

The quiet struggles and satisfactions of carving out an identity in a world gone wrong are palpable throughout the album. Whether questing through the labyrinth of his own spiritual yearning, (“Heart of Wonder”), recreating a rail rider’s full-body sensation of freedom beneath an azure Montana sky (“Rose Colored Blues”), imagining a near-future dystopia where the very idea of green spaces has been annihilated (“Dirty Rain”), or channeling the desire of a peeping Tom who has fallen in love with his sylvan quarry (“Hazel”), Combs refines the vulnerable vagabond persona he mastered on All These Dreams while pushing it beyond those boundaries, into a more pastoral realm aligned with artists like Nick Drake and Tim Buckley. The idea of the artist’s creative life as an ecosystem — one just as in need of cultivation and care as our own imperiled world — informs much of Canyons. For Combs, the quest to sustain his own capacity to create on a daily basis is what drives him. “I want to create for the rest of my life — writing, singing, painting,” he says. “I also want my life to include a family, a house, and kids. Seeking out other artists who’ve been able to keep the lights on without compromising their art – that keeps me inspired.”
The Kernal
The Kernal
Based in the halfway point between two Tennessee music meccas, The Kernal is apart yet plugged into the fertile East Nashville music scene. A Southern gentleman with an old soul who is tied deeply to the legacy and showmanship of the wandering musician and the historic Grand Ole Opry, the Kernal will release his upcoming album, LIGHT COUNTRY, on March 3, 2017 on Alabama label Single Lock Records (John Paul White). Along with his band, the New Strangers, the Kernal tours the country with his home-grown brand of Southern mystique, including recent tours with friend and fan John Paul White.

You may have seen or heard The Kernal in his other incarnation as a bass player with such artists as Andrew Combs and Jonny Fritz. But LIGHT COUNTRY introduces us to a funny, whip-smart songwriter and musical stylist on these original tracks. The album opens with the sweeping gospel number, “Where We’re Standing,” which builds to a swirling electric guitar outro. He describes “Knock Kneed Ballerina” as a “shoulder-dance country song and a sort of personal, band-mission statement;” it’s also a knowing nod to the classic sound of ‘70s Nashville Countrypolitan hits and a poignant ode to musical also-rans everywhere. “At the Old Taco Bell” was inspired by a photo of a boarded up, derelict Taco Bell. “It’s about me moving into an abandoned, and therefore affordable, Taco Bell at some point in the future,” he deadpans. Elsewhere he tackles modern domesticity (the Harry Nilsson-esque “Cold Shoulder”), and ends on an apology of sorts for his choice of lifestyle, “I earned my degree but I would rather rake some leaves … Barely eatin’ and meetin’ my rent.”

LIGHT COUNTRY is a family affair, but the family at this point is the family of memory; it was 2010 when the Kernal went into the attic of his childhood home in Pinewood, TN and found his

late father’s red Opry suit (it’s the suit he’s wearing on the album cover). An English major who’s as likely to reference Bela Bartok and Terry Allen as a country music legend, the Kernal was inspired to write his own songs after donning his late father’s red Opry suit. He discovered that it fit and began to feel its mojo. “It was a magic suit,” he confides. “It’s all about old fabrics on new skin, and seeing how they get along.”

“My dad,” the Kernal explains, “met Sleepy LaBeef at Linebaugh’s Restaurant in Nashville. Lonzo & Oscar were looking for a drummer and he asked my dad if he could play a shuffle beat on the table. He did and he left for a 10-day run the next day. It worked out because soon he was playing with Sleepy.” From there, his father found his way to The Kendalls, and eventually to the legendary Del Reeves, with whom he would play until Reeves’ death in 2007. His father died in September of the same year. These memories — this legacy of the old country music way, of rock and roll on the fly — was not lost on the Kernal, and he took it as starting point from which to build his own contribution to Southern music while celebrating its past.

LIGHT COUNTRY also features a snippet of the Kernal’s long-passed relatives singing gospel. He found old reel-to-reel tapes of his family’s gospel singing and was able to transfer the recordings and include snippets of their singing on the album. “They all came from the Rome, Georgia area and go back generations, back to the shape-note singing gospel books of the early Southern churches.”

This sense of place and history makes this an homage to family and the South, filtered through the Kernal’s literate, offbeat humor and sense of what makes a “good” country song. The Kernal inherited more than just a snappy red suit from his late Dad, he inherited his love of music and generations of musical history, as well as a dose of realism about “living the dream.”

This all gives LIGHT COUNTRY a color and depth you don’t often hear with a “young” artist. These songs have their own powerful energy, the chemistry of tension with the old guard and the young gun but with, according to the Kernal, “the respect and love that comes from the South itself.
Venue Information:
Proud Larry's
211 S Lamar Blvd
Oxford, MS, 38655
http://proudlarrys.com/