HomeEF CountryLuke Combs - 'Gettin' Old' album review

Luke Combs – ‘Gettin’ Old’ album review

Luke Combs. From humble North Carolina origins to the CMA Entertainer of the Year in about 6 years. His rise has been nothing short of meteoric. This relatable everyman has had an immense impact on the post-Stapleton Country music world. Look at the guys being signed to major labels now and you’ll see a commonality in both sound and style to Combs that would have been unheard of six years ago when that clean-cut ‘Boyfriend Country’ style was just beginning to take hold.

‘Gettin’ Old’ is Combs’ fourth album and an important one too given the lukewarm reception that greeted ‘Growin’ Up’. Sure, Combs’ third album delivered number one hits in ‘Doin’ This’, The Kind of Love We Make’ and ‘Going Going Gone’ but the album felt a little lacklustre in places and was definitely missing the spark that ‘This One’s For You’ and ‘What You See is What You Get’ had. The good news is that the spark is back, baby! Back in a slightly different, more melodic and mature manner, but it’s definitely there on ‘Gettin’ Old’, an album full of melody and meaning that reflects Combs’ ageing and relatable life experiences.

That’s the first thing that Luke Combs should be applauded for on ‘Gettin’ Old’. (the clue is in the title, folks!) He’s not afraid to sing about age appropriate and relatable (there’s that word again) topics. So many male Country stars seem to think that they are Peter Pan and that they can go on singing about hook ups and hot girls into their 40s and 50s. We’re not going to name names but we’re looking at you Luke Bryan, although to be fair he’s not the only one seemingly afraid to embrace his age and reflect his life experiences in the lyrics of his songs.

‘Gettin’ Old’ is jam-packed with songs about life, family and other meaningful life experiences that hit home right where they are intended too. Album opener, ‘Growin Up and Gettin Old’ is the link, alongside the cover of the project, that ties albums three and four together in a clever way. It also introduces the strong, narrative theme of the album: growth, change and evolution. Combs is embracing ageing and becoming a father (soon to be of two!) on this track. ‘Those hangovers sure kick my ass these days,’ he sings at one point although the chorus cleverly explodes with the exclamation that he can still rock out when he wants to.

Loss, reflection and nostalgia are huge themes scattered across this album, painted in sweeping and impactful brush strokes. Fathers and brothers are touched on in songs like ‘See Me Now’, ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and ‘Take You With Me’. The latter is underpinned by a wonderful, mature piano melody as Combs, firstly, sings about his own father and then his experiences of being a father whilst ‘See Me Now’ and ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ might well have to battle it out for title of ‘best song on the album’. ‘See Me Now’ is classic Combs: an uptempo beginning builds to a huge chorus in which he sings, ‘I like to think you’d be the proudest guy in town if I could see you see me now.’ The lighter, rockier melodies could be discordant with the gravitas of the lyrics but Combs and his team handle things with a deft, skilful hand.

Similarly, ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, which is my personal favourite on song on the album, deals with the loss of a brother, but in a new and different way for Combs. The song is a story that plays out like a Meat Loaf or Bon Jovi song in terms of the fictional nature of the lyrics but it hits home right where it needs to when the brother crashes his Indian Scout motor cycle into a Los Angeles guardrail at 3.30am. Massive melodies, an infectious chorus and superb storytelling make this a slightly newer look for Combs but one that he should do more of as his career develops.

Strong storytelling is a real feature of ‘Gettin’ Old’ in a way that it wasn’t on previous album, ‘Growin’ Up’. ‘The Beer, the Band and The Barstool’ tells a story of heartbreak that reminds me of the melody of ‘Houston, We’ve Got a Problem’. There’s a lovely cadence to the melodies, clever lyrics and a bluesy, singalong chorus too. ‘Joe’ weaves a tale of a man battling the bottle and trying to stay on the straight and narrow whilst ‘Hannah Ford Road’ is all teenage romance, nostalgia and raging hormones set against a Tom Petty meets Eddie Money kind of Heartland Rock canvass, another new change and evolution for Combs but one that works so well for his gruff, strong vocals.

Indeed, nostalgia plays a part across the broader themes of this album. It’s clear that marriage, fatherhood and ageing have had an impact on the stories that Combs wants to tell and he has managed to weave those themes into his songs without losing any of the impact or melody that he is known for. ‘Back 40 Back’ sees Combs lamenting the rapid progress and change that has happened to society in the last 30 years. ‘The walls of the world are closing in, spreading cities spread us thin,’ he sings, espousing a sort of conservative desire to hold change at bay without being overtly Republican about it. It’s a wistful song with a lilting melody that will appeal to Combs’ core fan base in the rural areas of the south for sure. ‘Tattoo on a Sunburn’, meanwhile, takes a look back at the tried and tested trope of teenage summer romance. It’s a solid song but maybe lacks a little of the spark that so many of the songs on ‘Gettin’ Old’ have.

The album is rounded out by a number of songs about love, gratitude and a sense of getting a look behind the curtain into the workings of Combs’ life and relationships, which again, is a more personal touch than we are used in. ‘You Found Yours’ might well end up atop the radio charts with it’s huge ‘woh oh’ chorus and ‘hands-in-the-air vibes. It’s a fantastic song in which Combs sings about finding the ‘right one’: be that a dog, a truck, a girl or your kids. Absolutely relatable and absolutely infectious, this could well go on to be a live classic too. ‘Still’, with its slightly Western campfire vibes and Eagles-esque melodies is a simple but impactful love song. ‘Love You Anyway’, meanwhile, inhabits the same part of the Venn diagram that a song like ‘The Dance’ lives in with its ‘no regrets’ kind of message and a heartfelt, plaintive fiddle too whilst ‘5 Leaf Clover’, a Gaelic-sounding, Irish themed Folk song finds Combs expressing more gratitude for the way his life has turned out.

There’s a couple of outliers worth throwing into the mix in this review too. Combs covers Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ – who knew this was really a Country song? It feels a little out of place on an album full of wisdom, gratitude and hope, though, with its slightly hopeful but ultimately hopeless story of a person who just can’t quite get their life to go in the direction that they want it to. The song is about missed opportunities and dreams that never quite materialise and it feels at odds with the rest of the songs on ‘Gettin’ Old’ thematically. The other ‘black swan’ on the album is ‘The Part’, which is the song Combs chooses to end proceedings with. Combs goes full Kurt Cobain on this look behind the curtain at the mechanics of his life as he sings about all the sacrifices he has to make and moments he has to miss because of the nature of being a touring recording artist. It’s surprisingly introspective and bleak in terms of the lyrics and it will surprise a lot of people in the way Combs uses the song to close down the album, which probably makes it all the more impactful. He sings about ‘the darkness that comes to find you’ once the crowd goes home and you are left wanting to go and find out where he is and give him a great big hug!

The emotional heft of this album can also be found on songs like ‘My Song Will Never Die’ which sees Combs singing about the legacies that we leave behind and finding comfort in knowing his music will live on long after he is gone. With ‘My Song…..’ Combs might well have written his first Gospel song! It’s thankful, grateful and full of matters of the spirit and if that is Gospel music to you than there it is. Alongside ‘The Part’ and songs like ‘Still’ he is giving the listener are real look behind the curtain into the workings of both his thoughts and his life: three chords and the sometimes uncomfortable truth, right?

Luke Combs will always struggle to better or outshine ‘This One’s For You’ and ‘What You See is What You Get’ in terms of the legacy of his recording career because those two albums were such forces of nature. However, in a different, more restrained and mature way, ‘Gettin’ Old’ is just as good as either of those releases. The stories are stronger and more relatable and the lyrics to the songs on offer here reflect all our life experiences in an impactful yet insanely melodic way. ‘Gettin’ Old’ feels like much more than just an album – it’s a guidebook, it’s a self-help manual and it’s full of nuggets of wisdom that could help steer all of us into our respective futures with a beer in our hands and another insanely infectious chorus in our hearts. It’s a triumph.

Luke Combs
Credit: Sony Music

Track List: 1. Growin Up and Gettin Old 2. Hannah Ford Road 3. Back 40 Back 4. You Found Yours 5. The Beer, the Band, The Barstool 6. Still 7. See Me Now 8. Joe 9. A Song Was Born 10. My Song Will Never Die 11. Where the Wild Things Are 12. Love You Anyway 13. Take You With Me 14. Fast Car 15. Tattoo on a Sunburn 16. 5 Leaf Clover 17. Fox in the Henhouse 18. The Part Record Label: Sony Release Date: March 24th Buy ‘Gettin Old’ now

Must Read

Luke Combs. From humble North Carolina origins to the CMA Entertainer of the Year in about 6 years. His rise has been nothing short of meteoric. This relatable everyman has had an immense impact on the post-Stapleton Country music world. Look at the guys...Luke Combs - 'Gettin' Old' album review