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 co-writer Ray Fulcher on this 17-song set, re-energising both muscular and supple sounds learned from a couple of generations of hard country predecessors.