Luke Combs’ new album What You See is What You Get accomplishes what he does best: creating classic country songs in his own distinct way. It’s this method that continues to skyrocket Combs to the top of the country charts with six consecutive No. 1 singles and a loyal army of fans that fill arenas to celebrate him.
Though the sophomore project is full bodied with 17 tracks, it’s easily digestible, as Combs continues to rely on his expert balance of arena rockers alongside thoughtful ballads. He invites us in to the album with the crowd pleaser that is “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” the infectious, rollicking number making for a hearty welcome. He knows how to capture nostalgia just as well, showing off his precision as a songwriter on the reflective follow-up “Refrigerator Door” where mementos displayed on his fridge ranging from a photo on his first day of kindergarten to a save the date card for his best friend’s wedding paint a tapestry of precious life memories. Combs has a habit of finding meaning in life’s simplicity, a facet that also shines through on “Does To Me” where he not only accepts, but champions the aspects of himself he considers significant, even if others don’t. Whether he’s the star player on a lackluster baseball team or the last resort date for the prom queen, Combs finds value in the little victories that shaped him. It’s this sentiment that makes Eric Church the perfect choice as a featured guest. Though his presence is subtle, Church’s voice is a natural addition as he delivers his lines with poise and conviction.
The burgeoning superstar truly shines when he goes into this type of pensive state, with “Even Though I’m Leaving” serving as the ace among the album. The heartfelt ballad possesses the power to elicit tears as we venture through the journey of a father and son’s relationship, from the boy’s childhood days afraid of imaginary monsters to becoming a soldier who still yearns for his father’s connection though they’re seas apart. The singer taps into the floodgates on the final verse, as the father promises on his deathbed that he’ll always be by his son’s side. What’s particularly intriguing is the way Combs doesn’t deliver the emotion of the song through his voice, but rather allows the message to resonate through the lyrics.
In between upbeat country swing numbers like “1, 2 Many” – Combs’ voice uniting with Brooks & Dunn’s to make one of the finest choirs country music could assemble – along with “Lovin’ On You” and the amusing “Angels Workin’ Overtime,” he begins to self-analyze deep in the album, beginning with “Dear Today.” Opening the track with the demo version featuring just his guitar and rugged vocals, Combs creates a completely stripped down experience as he writes a letter to himself through song, encouraging self-improvement and taking time for the ones he loves. “Stop taking me for granted, like I’ll always be around, cause even as you read this boy that clock is ticking down,” he sings, delivering an important dose of truth not only to himself, but the listener. And even when the second verse kicks in with the studio production, he still takes a simplistic approach with only a few background vocalists to help him capture the humility of the song. But Combs proves he knows himself wholly on the title track, each line packed with observations such as feeling like a puzzle with missing pieces and though he’s a constant work in progress, his convictions are set in stone.
Combs ends the album on a poignant note with “Better Together,” balancing his detail-oriented songwriting with the romanticism expressed in “Beautiful Crazy.” With only a piano and his voice, the song positions itself at the opposite end of the spectrum than its opening number counterpart, the sweet love song serving as an ode to his fiancée Nicole Hocking, comparing their bond to the components of life that naturally gravitate to one another. “What’s the point of this old guitar, if it ain’t got no strings, or pouring your heart into a song, that you ain’t gonna sing, it’s a match made up in heaven, like good old boys and beer, and me as long as you’re right here,” he sings with ease.
What You See is What You Get is a continuation of the mass success Combs accumulated through This One’s For You. Fans will undoubtedly throw their support behind the singer and the new project as passionately as they did with his debut, as he continues to be one of modern country music’s best vocalists with a songwriting prowess and ear to middle America to match. One can feel more of Combs’ heart in this new body of work – an important element that makes him such a compelling force of nature in country music.