Luke Combs is the Kind of Leader Mainstream Country Needs

photo: Zach Massey

Yeah yeah, I get it. All of you purists out there aren’t going to ever let up on Luke Combs. Each time you hear one of his radio singles playing over the speakers at the supermarket, you profess you can’t tell the difference between his stuff and anyone else in the pop country mainstream. But I’m here to tell you, there is a difference, and not just in the music, but the leadership and character Luke Combs continues to display in his career.

It’s not that Luke Combs is ideal, because he isn’t. Hell, who is? And for many independent fans, he will never compete with the likes of Cody Jinks or Tyler Childers in their hearts. But who would you rather have being the face of mainstream country at the moment. Maren Morris? Luke Bryan? Morgan Wallen? As much as the response to the Wallen “n-word” incident has been an gross overreaction, he clearly did a very dumb thing, and brought tons of heat on the entirety of country music it didn’t need or deserve. The last thing we need is Morgan Wallen as the face of the franchise, which is what much of the media is attempting to enact for their own designs and purposes.

Meanwhile Luke Combs is out there doing all the right things. When Margo Price came after him for appearing in a video with Confederate flags in it earlier in his career and tried to turn it into Morgan Wallen Part 2, he handled the situation with grace. Luke Combs has been one of the biggest proponents of worthy songwriters in the mainstream this side of Miranda Lambert, using his platform to elevate guys like Brent Cobb and Adam Hood, Rob Snyder and Channing Wilson, even going out of his way to praise The Wilder Blue, while collaborating with people like Billy Strings, Amanda Shires, and Leon Bridges.

In fact a couple of months ago while attending the Key West Songwriters Fest, it was crazy how many times the name of Luke Combs came up when some of country music’s most creative behind-the-scenes contributors were playing acoustic sets, and explained how Luke Combs had cut or co-wrote this song and that song from their catalog.

And then there’s this recent case from the Faster Horses Festival in Michigan where three young men died. No, this was not one of those instances like we saw a few years ago where there was a rash of deaths, injuries, and arrests at mainstream country festivals that were regularly making headlines for out-of-control incidents. 20-year-old Dawson Brown, 20-year-old Richie Mays II, and 19-year-old Kole Sova died while sleeping in a camper, and inhaling deadly fumes from a generator. Two other men found unresponsive luckily survived.

Though Luke Combs has made no public statement about it and no press release was ever drafted, it has been confirmed by the families of the deceased young men that Luke Combs who headlined Faster Horses the night before had reached out to pay for the funeral expenses for the three young men.

“For him to reach out and do that, I don’t even have the words. I wish I could just give him a hug,” said Meeka Sova, the mother of Kole Sova to the AP.

Yes, Morgan Wallen continues to have the #1 album in country music with Dangerous: The Double Album, due in part to the fact that there’s 30 tracks racking up spins, putting the title at a metadata advantage. But the #2 and #3 albums in country music at the moment are Luke’s What You See Is What You Get and This One’s For You. And if you listen beyond the sometimes sappy or simple radio singles, you’ll hear some really great songs, done in a country style, and often written or co-written by some of your favorite artists.

You don’t have to love or even like the music of Luke Combs to love the kind of example he’s setting for the rest of the genre. Sure, lots of big country artists do charitable things … and then they send a press release out about it, and pose for a photo op, and use it to ultimately promote themselves. Luke Combs is the kind of guy that just does it, whether it’s working with a songwriter he respects, or quietly paying for the funeral expenses of some of his fans. Luke Combs is the type of superstar, and the type of leader mainstream country music needs. He’s also the one that the media should be portraying as the current face of country, because that’s what Luke Combs is.

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