Friday, 5 September 2014

Andrew Combs - Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham Thursday 4th September 2014

He may have started out as the chosen opener for the cream of Americana music talent but on the evidence of tonight’s show, it won’t be long until Andrew Combs sheds this tag and joins the elite himself. With acute articulation, shared sensibilities and a touch of bar room dust, Andrew taps into the rich source of folk and country music to display a mature and assured status. Basing himself in Nashville and working alongside the likes of Caitlin Rose, Jason Isbell and Shovels and Rope has helped Andrew develop into a repeat play inducing recording artist and a memorable live performer capable of turning heads.

Andrew is using this inaugural tour as a touring headline artist to launch his association with UK label Loose Music and share the dual fruits of his past and future. The first album for his new label in this country is due out early next year and we were introduced to several of the songs earmarked for the record when it’s released. This included the title track ‘All These Dreams’, the promoted track ‘Rainy Day Song’ and for me the standout track (on first listen anyway) ‘Suwannee County’. The latter had its origin in meeting a guy in Florida with a mutual interest in fishing. This simple, honest and observational approach to song writing aligns Andrew well with his contemporary peers and pays due respect to the pioneers of the craft.

Photo by Melissa Madison Fuller
Andrew may be listed as a solo performer but he is far from alone on this short UK tour and hopefully the prelude to a fuller one promoting the new record in the New Year. Opening for Andrew is Austin singer-songwriter Matt McCloskey who himself had a statuesque poise and potential to rise above the mediocrity of touring one man and a guitar talent. Andrew’s stage presence was enhanced by a pair of Philadelphia based musicians who especially brought to life some of the livelier songs from his debut full length album WORRIED MAN. Dominic Billett held court on percussion while Jerry Bierhadt supported on electric guitar and rose to the solo mantle of excelled status on a couple of opportune moments.

WORRIED MAN has been a regular go to album in the months running up to this tour and on perfect cue Andrew added many of its finest tracks to the improvised set list. ‘Devil’s Got My Woman’ was possibly the highlight of the whole evening but closely followed by the title track, ‘Please, Please Me’, ‘Heavy’ and the requested ‘Too Stoned to Cry’. It has been a couple of years since the release of this album making the upcoming record all the more eagerly anticipated. Around a year ago Andrew did release the popular sing along single ‘Emily’ and an attentive Hare and Hounds audience responded politely to invited participation on the chorus.

Of the remaining songs recalled from the set, no country/folk gig is complete without a gospel number and Andrew duly complied with his excellent composition ‘Slow Road to Jesus’. Likewise reference to the Volunteer state is standard song writing fare and Andrew played the title track of his 2010 EP ‘Tennessee Time’. ‘Foolin’ and ‘Pearl’ were other songs featured and lined up for the new record. Hopefully these will have a warm familiarity appeal to them when Andrew tours again in 2015.

This gig was brought to Birmingham by promoters Cosmic American and highlighted once what a grand job they and Loose Music do in presenting fantastic Americana talent to us small but growing band of insatiable followers in the UK. Andrew Combs played his part in meeting this appetite and, with a dose of optimistic justice, can continue to flourish in the future.

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