Whatever your opinion of Luke Combs, there’s no denying that he’s making serious waves in Country music. The breakout star released his debut album This One’s For You in 2017 and it’s been certified 2x Platinum in the US. The five singles from the album – Hurricane, When It Rains It Pours, One Number Away, She Got the Best of Me and Beautiful Crazy – all hit number one. Beer Never Broke My Heart taken from EP The Prequel became Combs’ sixth number one and it’s looking likely that follow-up single Even Though I’m Leaving will become his seventh. Just over two years on from This One’s For You, Combs has just released his second album What You See Is What You Get.
What You See Is What You Get is front-loaded with the five tracks that featured on The Prequel so the music will be immediately familiar to fans. The inclusion of those tracks makes the entire album a lengthy 17 songs so it’ll depend on how much you like Combs as to whether that’s a good thing or not. I had issues with This One’s For You. I could see that Combs has potential but for me, the album was over-produced letting his stellar voice get lost in the mix. Beer Never Broke My Heart suffered from the same treatment with the live version often cited by fans as the definitive version of the track as opposed to the recorded version.
Going into this record the first sign of hope I saw that Combs may live up to his true potential came on Even Though I’m Leaving. Co-written by Combs with Wyatt Durrette and Ray Fulcher, the tear-jerker tells the story of a father and son’s changing relationship, ending with the death of the father. This kind of song is what Combs does best, selling the emotion behind the story and hitting you in the feels. That’s the kind of heartfelt, introspective song that makes me understand the hype around him so could he finally win me over with What You See Is What You Get?
It would be true to say that I prefer What You See Is What You Get to This One’s For You. As an album it has more hits than misses but there are still too many misses. In terms of the good, songs such as Reasons and Dear Today showcase Combs’ more sensitive side and they feel less produced than much of the material here, particularly Dear Today which starts off as a live recording before switching to a studio version. The highlight for me, despite a few clunky lyrics, is Better Together and I can’t emphasise enough how much better Combs sounds away from the over-production that features on much of his work.
At 17 songs long there’s bound to be filler and it’s true that some of these songs are indistinguishable from one another. All Over Again sounds pretty much the same as his hit Hurricane while Every Little Bit Helps and the title track What You See Is What You Get are Luke Combs by numbers. 1, 2 Many featuring Brooks & Dunn is a nice throwback to the 90s and it works far better than Does To Me, the collaboration with Eric Church.
Following several listens I’m still not fully in the Luke Combs camp. The album is too long and there are too many similar sounding tracks. Including The Prequel in its entirety seems a bit unnecessary but honestly those five songs are among the best included here. I can see that his music is fairly jolly, for the most part, and that it’s sure to sound great in a live environment but for me, he still isn’t living up to the hype around him. I desperately want something to switch inside me so I can see what everyone else does and while this album gets me slightly closer, it’s still not completely won me over.