“Nothing’s really gold anymore,” sings Andrew Combs on “Dirty Rain,” the lead single from his forthcoming third album Canyons of My Mind. Set to gorgeous strings and the artful leap of his voice from low hum to high quiver, it’s a song about a world quickly losing its luster: tainted water, decimated forests, towns trading charm for an easy buck. Like Joni Mitchell before him, imagining parks turning to parking lots on “Big Yellow Taxi,” Combs is the rare writer who can make the personal seem universal, and break down the broad into pieces small enough to chew. In the video for “Dirty Rain,” Combs wanders the streets of Nashville among crumbling buildings and the ghosts of a more innocent time. (Watch the clip above.)
Canyons, the follow-up to Combs’ lush and mysterious All These Dreams, is Combs’ first LP on New West Records, and he delves even deeper into his talents as a narrative, profoundly empathetic songwriter. Using the musical history of Nashville and beyond – Guy Clark, Glen Campbell, Jim Croce, Mickey Newbury’s “Just Dropped In” – as well as a keen sense of the political and literary worlds around him, Combs creates characters and cinematic snapshots: the waltzing duet of a man gaining control of his mistakes on “What It Means to You”; the dangerous love of “Hazel,” with a Tejano vibrato; the poisonous, bitter blues of “Bourgeois King” that is perhaps the most cogent sonic reflection on this past presidential election yet. It’s a journey into what’s permanent and what’s ephemeral, and how most things we assume are one way are often just the opposite.
Co-produced by Skylar Wilson (Justin Townes Earle, Caitlin Rose) and Jordan Lehning (Rodney Crowell), Canyons was recorded at Battle Tapes Studio in East Nashville. Combs will tour to support the album, available April 7th, beginning in March.