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.