Andrew Combs Tackles Abandonment and Gentrification in “Dirty Rain”
Gentrification and the destruction of America’s industrial and agrarian Heartland is not just an issue of economics, it’s an issue that scores right at the very psyche of those on the losing end, and in immeasurable degrees. A sense of home is something that is inherent in the human design, and as the communities and buildings that comprise what people and places used to be are either razed in the name of progress, or abandoned to dissolve slowly back into the soil over time, the most acidic result is how the memories and stories of these places are invariably razed or slowly eroded away to a fine dust as well.
You don’t often recognize the warmth and spirit that the sense of home and place gives you on a daily basis when you’re surrounded by it. It’s only when it’s ravaged by disaster, eminent domained by the heartless advance of progress, or depleted over time that it begins to inspire a host of neuroses in how you perceive the world, and yourself. With those lost buildings and places, a little part of you is lost as well, and replaced by the antiseptic nature of uninspiring utilitarianism that despite all the efficiency it brings, takes a toll on the human spirit and the germ of creativity in ways that can’t be quantified.
Andrew Combs is a songsmith and singer whose efforts have been shamefully overlooked like so many of the forgotten corners of America that have been left to crumble back into the prarie, but he will make another spirited effort for your attention when he releases a new album Canyons of my Mind on New West Records April 7th. Ahead of the release, his new song “Dirty Rain” doesn’t only call attention to the delinquency we make upon ourselves when we too quickly transform our neighborhoods and communities into square and binary constructs of deft economic expediency, but how the children of the future many never have the opportunity to experience that sense of community many of the previous and current generations did, while the world they inherit will be full of other fundamental dilemmas.
Such concerns have translated themselves into the songs of country and Americana artists over the last couple of years as the communities many of these creative minds call home convert to the epicenters of gentrification—places like East Nashville and East Austin—while many of these artists originate from the abandoned areas in middle America, and/or find ample opportunities to behold them as they criss cross the country on van tours. In many ways it has become cliché for an independent country band to take photos or shoot video among the abandoned relics of our ancestors, but the reason for this is the immediate sense of mourning they evoke in the beholder, and the sheer prevalence of these places throughout the American landscape, while well-loved and protected pieces of our past are so rare they’re more symbolic than structural.
No one song or artist will alter this adverse trend as the economic engine irreversibly paves over creative communities and abandons others in the name of progress, but they will remind us there is a price to pay. Andrew Combs utilizes inspired perspective, a keen falsetto, and strings indicative of the old Nashville Sound approach to production in the song “Dirty Rain” to not just decry gentrification and abandonment, but put a musical context to the feelings of nostalgia and remorse one feels when stricken by the realization of what once was will never ever be again.
February 10, 2017 @ 11:34 am
This guy deserves a much wider audience. Saw him open for Caitlyn Rose. Fantastic performer. “All These Dreams” is a great album.
February 10, 2017 @ 12:06 pm
Not country at all. This is saving country music ain’t it??
February 10, 2017 @ 1:29 pm
Andrew Combs is a well-recognized songwriter and performer in the East Nashville independent country and Americana community. I have been covering artists like him for going on a decade. Is “Dirty Rain” a shit kicker about getting drunk in a honky tonk? No its not, but I believe country music can encapsulate a broad host of themes, and as said in the review, this song fits well into the established classic Nashville Sound of country’s history. And besides, Andrew Combs didn’t call it country, and neither did I. It’s just a good song that I wanted to share. If it’s not your style, I can respect that. But it is very much in the realm of “Saving Country Music.”
Lil Dale savin country music comentar of the yeer 2014 2015 2016 (3 peet!)
February 10, 2017 @ 8:25 pm
east nashville ill tell ya about east nashville the yeer was 1986 n I was fresh back outta ththe pin when a buddy donnie sez he nos ware theres a ole timer with more munny then God we wudnt thankin so rite n those days n all so we hed out to this ole boys house n as weer maken r way up to the house I here a trigger cock n pow n the next thang I no donnies got his dad gum leg belo the nee missin n, Im hallin ass back to the truck east nashville is helluva plase if this boy is any thing like the ole timer in esst nashville u do not want to tangall with eem
may be it was hermitage
February 10, 2017 @ 9:17 pm
A bunch of things… This song is awesome. That is true, and it is in thethe realm of saving country music.com, but it has nothing to do with the actual act of saving country music. Its not country, its not really roots or Americana, even though you can legitimately argue almost all music falls into this category. If it has to be labeled this is classic rock, it really is, this has been done just not in a while.
On the issue of gentrification, I generally disagree with tearing down the old in favor of the modermodern. But you know there are some neighborhoods that 100% need it, no one can deny this. Another thing, it seems your definition of gentrification is losing something most of us didn’t grow up with. I know your around the same age as me, the 80s and the 90s were shit. This was a time of terrible music, society embracing its heathenism, and the downfall of neighborhoods and cities to their lowest point. People literally burned their own neighborhoods. My little town by 2004 was overrun by meth and prescription drugs. Almost exclusively trailer houses, stores built in the 70s,80, falling to pieces. Now the rich suburbs are moving farther from Houston nnd encroaching on my town and this place is getting cleaned up. The police finally decided to do their job for the rich white people moving here.
Austin and Nashville are urban centers and really only have anything to do with country music by memory and reputation. They were places where a country singer could reach a larger audience, but it was the country artists that migrated there not the place itself was special. I know they are an important part of country history, but Nashville could have been memphis, for that matter it could have been in Mississippi.
This guy sings good, but if you consider this country music, then it is country music gentrified iitself.
February 11, 2017 @ 7:36 am
What!?!? C’mon man! I was yellin’ YeeeeeeeHaaawwwww all the way through that song! How can you say that ain’t country?
I think we’ve got the next Billy Joe on our hands here. Just wait….for a really long time…no not yet….just keep waiting….
Seriously though – yes it’s a great song, but yea, to even call it Americana is quite a stretch. Adult Contemporary Whatever…or whatever…maybe. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
February 11, 2017 @ 8:25 am
Yeah, I really really droned on, didn t realize that comment was that long. My fault. But yeah the song was good and so was the article.
February 11, 2017 @ 8:10 am
Trigger, thanks for covering this. While I’m not as familiar with Andrew as I am Robert Ellis and Nikki Lane, they’re all on the same label and kind of doing something simila, which is really good music that takes influences from country, at times sounds country or folk or rock, but may not meet the classic definition of traditional country. It sure ain’t bro country and you can say it’s not commercial. I imagine all 3 can perform traditional country just fine when they want,, and sometimes they do, but they’re all into exploring musically. This is when labeling music is a pain. Because all three performers don’t neatly fit into just one box. Thanks again for covering this.
February 11, 2017 @ 10:13 am
I guess I just don’t understand why so many folks see a review of Andrew Combs as being something out of left field. I remember a similar backlash when I covered Lucero a while back. Andrew Combs is a well-established and respected songwriter of the East Nashville scene. I saw him perform last year at Willie Nelson’s Luck, TX event during SXSW, and he was in the new version of Heartworn Highways. Now I guess if you don’t know him, this is all news to you, and perhaps I should have contextualized his music a bit better. But I’ve been criticized on numerous occasions in the past for not covering Andrew Combs enough. No, he’s not straight up country. But neither were Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. They were songwriters who worked on the fringes of the country realm. Good music is good music. If someone doesn’t like the song, fair enough.
February 11, 2017 @ 10:59 am
I think people have different definitions of what saving country music means to them.If it means focusing exclusively on traditional country music to one person or if another person sees it as supporting a wider range of artists related to Americana and trad country, it might influence how people react to your articles. Since it is your site, you get to get to define what it means to you of course, but you’re also kind enough to allow for differing opinions amongst your readers who agree or disagree with your perspective, which is refreshing and healthy debate.
February 12, 2017 @ 6:36 am
I think it is an excellent song. It reminds me a little of Rufus Wainwright. I don’t know much about Andrew. I know I really like “Foolin”. I thought that song should have been huge.
February 10, 2017 @ 12:09 pm
I like it. Early song of the year contender?
February 10, 2017 @ 12:35 pm
I would say there’s a good possibility of that.
February 11, 2017 @ 11:14 am
If it does wake me up in 2018
February 10, 2017 @ 1:22 pm
I respect this music but it seems more like a remedy for insomnia. Just a little boring for me.
February 10, 2017 @ 1:28 pm
Agree with others, lyrics are good, but very boring and doesn’t sound country at all
February 10, 2017 @ 2:30 pm
Andrew Combs is a good one. Been working hard for a long time around town.
And you killed it on Viceland Trigger!
February 10, 2017 @ 3:20 pm
Hey, nice article Trigger. So, isn’t it clear what we do about all this repurposing of our brain-trust and our sources of well-being? We need to dance, put up some roadhouses, and curb some of the big interests.
February 10, 2017 @ 3:21 pm
“All These Dreams” is still in regular rotation for me, I’m looking forward to this release and this bodes well. I love my twang but also love a good song.
February 10, 2017 @ 5:11 pm
All These Dreams was such a great record. Really looking forward to the new record in April.
February 10, 2017 @ 6:26 pm
Dear ” Country ” Radio ,
Here’s a song ABOUT something of substance and significance to folks of ALL ages living anywhere and everywhere in America by an obviously talented and passionate ARTIST with a unique emotive quality to his vocals that speaks directly to your soul .
“Dirty Rain” has a MELODY , an absolutely GORGEOUS melody , an incredibly effective arrangement built on a simple foundation of acoustic guitars . It has inventive , INTERESTING and completely ENGAGING chord changes which echo nothing I’ve heard in recent memory , and a stirring ,extremely WELL CRAFTED and always discernible LYRIC which the track ,wisely , NEVER tries to compete with ( a beautiful production ) .
If you wanted to refer to a contemporary sound as being COUNTRY in intent , in message , in the innate ability of a vocalist to reach a listener’s head AND heart while being devoid of generic vocal ‘ licks’ or cliche of any kind , in superior songwriting and an arrangement whose dynamics COMPLETELY support the song , you should be referring to THIS song . If you want to talk about COUNTRY music evolving and sounding fresh without forsaking its roots , you’d need to talk about THIS song .
If you don’t honestly want to talk or even hear about any of those things ,by all means ignore this and carry on playing the Sam Hunts , the Thomas Rhetts , the Urbans , the pop wannabe’s and whomever else is CALLING themselves a ” Country ” artist this month . Once you’ve listened to this song , though , you’ll realize , as so many of us do , that you are just lying to yourself . ” Dirty Rain ” is as good as it gets .
Your friend , Albert
February 10, 2017 @ 7:36 pm
Well, I had just finished whining about the recent lack of GOOD music reviews in a post on the Gilbert review page, when Trigger delivers Andrew Combs “Dirty Rain.” Now THIS is why I read SCM everyday; to find SONGS and ARTISTS like this! Sorry to steal your style, Albert; just makes me laugh whenever I read your comments (which are almost always spot on), because I feel like I can actually hear you talking with the way you use parenthesis and capital letters. Thank you (insert prior to your “You’re welcome”).
And another reason I check in everyday is because I get to read reviews like the one Trigger just wrote. Who is writing about music and artists like this anymore? Trigger covers the song, music, lyrics, vocal performance and the social and historical context of the theme of the song. Fantastic article (and great comments Albert). Andrew Combs ought to be copying and pasting this stuff onto his website press page!
February 10, 2017 @ 8:59 pm
Just wanted to add , Trigger ….In my opinion the masterful way you’ve articulated your insightful observations in the essay above stands among your best work . Kudos and much appreciation .
February 10, 2017 @ 9:02 pm
Not feeling him, but thanks for the review.
February 11, 2017 @ 11:12 am
Agree but check out his other albums. Has some great stuff. I’ll reserve judgement when I hear all of this album but I needed a nap by the end of this tune
February 10, 2017 @ 10:52 pm
Interesting subject matter, that needs more attention. That said, Combs vocally isn’t really my style. If someone like Jason Each, Cody Jinks, Justin Wells, etc. were singing this I think I would enjoy it a hell of a lot more.
February 11, 2017 @ 7:01 am
Beautiful song. Thanks for sharing. So it looks like Andrew Combs stole the title of “Saddest Song Named Dirty Rain” from Ryan Adams. Jason Isbell, it’s your turn.
February 11, 2017 @ 9:32 am
Sounds like Parker Millsap, I can dig it
February 11, 2017 @ 11:09 am
Glad to see Andrew get some good press. Worried Man has been one of the biggest sleeper albums out there IMO. Huge fan but this song doesn’t do it for me and I find it laboring
I hate the argument on gentrification and abandoment. Considering there’s only one way to prevent abandonment it drives me f’ing crazy. Some of the coolest developments around this country have been reuse of dilapidated buildings, bringing people back together in blighted areas. Sure there are examples of popular joints getting torn down for distasteful development but the pros outweigh the cons imo
February 12, 2017 @ 5:14 pm
I can’t claim this gent can’t sing – but I don’t feel it
August 22, 2018 @ 10:39 am
Is there a reason an album review was never done for “Canyons Of My Mind”? It’s such a good album (my favorite of last year), really deserves to be recognized.
August 22, 2018 @ 2:49 pm
Saving Country Music reviews more albums than any other major country music/Americana outlet, and those reviews tend to be longer, along with covering news and other issues, and all as a one-man operation. It is impossible to review every album, and just because something isn’t reviewed, it should never be taken as an insult or an oversight of the work. Often it’s just an issue of time resources, or not knowing what to say about a specific work to be able to review it.