Luke Combs could’ve relied on a formula popular with so many of his country peers during the 2010s: swaggeringly flirtatious, beat-driven jams. Instead, he circled back to the evergreen country approach of placing a persuasive persona at the heart of his music, and quickly fired up a fanbase with his way of inhabiting the good-humoured blue-collar regular-guy role. It helped that his songwriting was sturdy and clever and his performances hearty. On the follow-up to Combs’ blockbuster 2017 debut, that vantage point is even more robust, and also more knowing. “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” a propulsive honky-tonk number that initially appeared on an EP, is a mischievous take on avoiding emotional investment in anything with the potential to disappoint, and “1, 2 Many” is a vigorous barroom boogie featuring Brooks & Dunn—experts at that style—and full of playfully cocky bragging about boozy bad behaviour. “I think country music fans like songs that they can drink and have a good time to,” Combs tells Apple Music. “The fast-pumping rhythms and big Telecaster guitars take you back to what country music was like in the ’90s. Country fans are starved for an uptempo song, and that’s what this is.”
Combs is equally charismatic delivering more sensitive songs, like the romantic ballad “Nothing Like You” and “Does to Me,” a collaboration with Eric Church that takes pride in down-to-earth sincerity. In "New Every Day" and "Every Little Bit Helps," Combs brings satisfyingly agile exertion to hooks that would humble a lesser singer. He continued his partnership with producer Scott Moffatt and core cowriter Ray Fulcher, re-energizing both muscular and supple sounds learned from a couple of generations of hard country predecessors. Here Combs talks through the five tracks included on this deluxe edition.
Cold as You "I love writing these kind of songs, with these big choruses. When we went into the studio, I felt like the song didn't turn out differently. We were like, 'Hey, let's just make this song what it already is. Let's not overthink this thing, and just have fun with it.' We wanted to make it strong and make it fun."
The Other Guy "I had written that song a number of years ago, probably three years ago now. I wrote that song with my stage-right guitar player Rob Williford and a guy by the name of Brandon Kinney, who I like a lot. I'd had that idea in my phone for a while and knew that I wanted to turn that phrase ['you should see the other guy'] on its head and do something different with it. It just came at an awkward time when we wrote it, in between different things we were doing. So it never got on the deluxe of This One's for You. When it came time to do this deluxe, I was going through stuff I'd written and stumbled back across thing and thought, 'Man, this thing is really good.' So I decided to pull the trigger on it. It's one of my favourite tunes we have."
My Kinda Folk “This was a song that my guitar tech had started and sent to me. I heard the bit of the chorus he had and thought it was really great. We ended up hanging and having a couple of beers and finishing that song. And the song really does speak to that whole thing, just dudes hanging out, writing songs. That's the guys we are. I think it speaks a lot to the fans and to myself and to my buddies as well."
Without You (feat. Amanda Shires) "We wrote that song up in Boone, North Carolina. I have a lot of writing trips that I do up there, maybe once a year. I bring a lot of my friends up and write for about two weeks. Ever since I did 'This One's for You,' I wanted to do something that was similar, along those lines, but spoke more to the moment I was in now. I wanted to talk to my parents and to my wife and to the fans, the people that keep me going when I'm not feeling great or I'm having a bad day. And working with Amanda Shires was really great. She played fiddle with me last year on the ACMs. When we went into the studio, I said, 'This should be a fiddle-heavy track.' So we shot it over to her and she put some fiddle on it and it turned out really great."
Forever After All "That was actually the first song that I wrote in our house out here in Tennessee. My wife and I bought our first house together about a year ago. It was really neat to have that first song be here. I wrote that with Rob Williford and Drew Parker, two guys I write with pretty frequently and I'm very comfortable with and that I feel like I write great stuff with. So it's easier to open up with guys that you've written with a lot. Once we teased the song, people's reaction was really awesome. I don't think we expected it to be that big."