Luke Combs – Growin’ Up

Sony Music Entertainment

Release Date: June 24th 2022

Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre

Luke CombsGrowin’ Up (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Doin’ This
  2. Any Given Friday Night
  3. The Kind of Love We Make
  4. On the Other Line
  5. Outrunnin’ Your Memory (feat. Miranda Lambert)
  6. Used to Wish I Was
  7. Better Back When
  8. Tomorrow Me
  9. Ain’t Far From It
  10. Call Me
  11. Middle of Somewhere
  12. Going, Going, Gone

It’s been a little while since I wrote the blog post ‘Momentous Mondays: Influential Artists of the Next 5 – 10 Years- Honourable Mentions’. In that post, I highlighted 25 artists (yes, 25!) that unfortunately didn’t make the ‘official’ list of influential and impactful artists that we as a site, seemingly ‘deemed’ to be, both now and into the next 5 – 10 years. And while hindsight showed us all that the 50 artists we eventually wrote about, weren’t really representative of influential artists that are actually influential today (I mean, who were we kidding, writing about Selena Gomez, Anthem Lights, Demi Lovato or even Matthew West, and calling them all, ‘up and coming’?); we nevertheless wrote about artists that were new- on the whole. Artists like Thomas Rhett, Lucy Thomas, Apollo LTD, Cory Asbury, The Shires, Ava Max, Riley Clemmons, NF, Maddie & Tae, Lindsay Ell, Peter Hollens, and Little Mix, are just some of the many artists we delved into in that particular arm of our continuous blog series, and so in order to accommodate all of the ‘missing’ artists from the blog post list of 50 influential up-and-coming musicians, we wrote an ‘honourable mentions’ post. What we did write about, in the honourable mentions post, is neither here nor there (you can still read about the honourable mention post, here), but one particular artist that we delved into (a little) on our honourable mentions post, was country artist, Luke Combs. Now let me tell you, that had we listened to Luke from the start (and maybe even resonated with his music), I’d guarantee you that we would’ve written about him and his music. But we didn’t, for whatever reason, we don’t know. But at least he was in our honourable mentions, right?

Growin’ Up was unveiled digitally at the end of July 2022, and so right now in August 2022, I’ve suddenly pondered and thought ‘why not’…what better way to be introduced to arguably one of country music’s most respected male country artists right now, than to write a review on Growin’ Up…which is what I’m going to do. Yep, brace yourselves, because I’m finally taking the plunge, and writing about Luke’s new album, even though I’ve never really heard much about Luke’s music before. Until now, of course. And while people could say that me not being a fan (but after listening to this album, I’m someone who is much more intrigued with what Luke has to offer, than prior to hearing the album in full) could be a hindrance in me reviewing said album, I look at it like this. Me not knowing much about Luke, rids me of any biases I probably would’ve had to his music, had I been a fan from the start. Now, all I do, is just review the music for what it is. And what Growin’ Up is, is a collection of songs, full of hope, encouragement, joy, fulfillment, emotional moments of realisation, alongside others of introspection and possibly undertaking of change. Luke’s timely message about growing up (many of these songs on this album are autobiographical, and thus, Growin’ Up the album speaks about the need for him to take things seriously that may have been taken more loosely before) can challenge each and every one of us- the COVID-19 pandemic was a real leveler, and allowed people to reckon within themselves and to ‘grow up’- mentally and emotionally more so than physically. Growin’ Up the album speaks of something pretty similar, as Luke challenges us through these songs, of our need in a post-COVID world, to look within ourselves, and to really ask the questions that we may not have pondered, had COVID-19 not been a reality.

‘Doin’ This’ and ‘Tomorrow Me’ are the two singles unveiled by Luke prior to the album release, and for me, not knowing much about Luke, these two songs are definitely great songs to enter into the world of Luke and his songs- he reminds me of someone like Chris Stapleton, Eric Church, Thomas Rhett, even Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley back in the day. ‘Tomorrow Me’, released around 3 months ago, speaks about a relationship that has seemingly ended, with the persona trying their hardest to keep the relationship with their ex not turning into something more (again), because, if we’re honest, there are certainly times when even though a relationship has ended, exes seemingly try to rekindle something that may have been lost. That’s ok, if both people in the relationship before, want to try and make it work again, but if the ‘rekindling’ is nothing more than just a fling, then maybe, just maybe, the late night call from your ex would just have to wait to…well, never. ‘Tomorrow Me’ speaks about consequences for giving into the actions that are only going to make us all feel better momentarily, but when tomorrow rolls around, you still have to deal with the consequences. As Luke himself sings in the chorus- ‘…tomorrow me ain’t gonna like the way things go tonight, if I let you in and think that it’ll be different this time, so maybe we should let yesterday be, cause I gotta live with tomorrow me…’ ‘Tomorrow Me’ speaks about taking ownership for decisions that maybe we would’ve been flippantly making pre-COVID- with no regard of consequences. This song, viewed through the lens of COVID-19 in general, makes the meaning of the song much more poignant and compelling. All of us need reality checks from time to time. Maybe, ‘Tomorrow Me’ could be one of them, especially if we all could relate to the line ‘I gotta live with tomorrow me’.

‘Doin’ This’ is Luke’s first radio single from Growin’ Up; and is perhaps one of the most vulnerable songs that he’s sung for the album. Standing at a little over 4 minutes (and the first song on the album too), Luke himself ponders the question, of what he would be doing with his life if he wasn’t doing music for a living. In the song, he relays that he has so much enthusiasm and passion for music, that he’d still be doing music, even if he wasn’t the superstar that he currently is. It’s a song that can also relate to each of us when we look at our own career decisions and what we do for careers- would we still be doing what we’re doing, if we weren’t as high-up on the corporate ladder, or even still, would we be still doing what we’re doing, if we weren’t even paid for it? This is a song that allows us to look at our motivations for doing the things that we do, and to ask ourselves- how much of why we do what we do, is for the cash, or is it for the love of the thing that we do? Luke continues to deliver heartfelt songs with the track ‘Middle of Somewhere’, a song that, if Luke was a few years younger, probably wouldn’t have written it, if he was honest. As depicted in a recent interview with Variety, Luke expounds upon ‘Middle of Somewhere’, and what it means to him- ‘…we live an hour outside of Nashville and have for three and a half years now. I think we moved there at the right time, because we are coming into this new phase of life where things tend to get faster, but they also slow down because of the things that become important to you, which is spending time with the people you care about being in a place that allows you to breathe. Not that I don’t love Nashville, because I love it to death, but being out there in a really small town has changed my outlook on things. When my buddies would come out to write songs, a lot of them would be like, “Man, you live in the middle of nowhere.” I started to think about it. And I was like, man, those little towns mean so much to the people that live in them, especially people that grew up there and are from there, and maybe left and come back, or people that have lived there since they were born and will live there until they die. I hadn’t experienced that, because I grew up in Asheville, which is not Los Angeles, but it’s a city. And so, I had never experienced genuinely living somewhere that was such a microclimate. There’s a grocery store and a barbershop and a hardware store, but it’s not a Lowes and it’s not a Walmart. The guy that lives down the road owns the grocery store and the lady that runs the barber shop lives down the street. Since I had just never experienced that, I really just wanted to write that song as an ode to the little town that we live in. And that’s just something that I wouldn’t have done before, you know? And I think sonically, if I had done something like that before, it would come out way different than it did on this one…’ ‘Middle of Somewhere’ honours the little towns that are seemingly forgotten, the towns that have all the cheer and the welcoming spirit, but but wouldn’t really be recognised on a map because they’re not ‘big enough’. ‘Middle of Somewhere’ recognises that these towns are important, that they mean something to the people who live there, and that without these towns on the map, maybe the make-up and character of people generally in a certain country, would change drastically or even dramatically. I dunno. But what I do know is this- ‘Middle of Somewhere’ tries to elevate something that was once overlooked and forgotten, and thus, this can be a song that can hopefully elevate and point towards people that have long been unseen and forgotten for so long.

Throughout the rest of the album, Luke continues to impart the wisdom that he has gained from the experiences of his life up until now, as he has done some growing up over the years, these songs unveiled on this album has shown his maturity; and can hopefully allow us to maybe grow up in some areas of our own life. ‘The Kind of Love We Make’ is an out-and-out steamy love song that leaves little to the imagination, as Luke goes in some detail, of what he wants the night to look like, for himself and his wife. ‘The Kind of Love We Make’ is definitely not ‘G’ or even ‘PG’, and yet it can still be a song that can hopefully encourage us to pursue a love like that, in the relationships that we have with our loved ones. Luke teams up with Miranda Lambert for the duet ‘Outrunnin’ Your Memory’, a song that sees the persona and their ex, realising that they can’t get each other out of their minds, even though they desperately try to- while the song itself is seemingly ambiguous as to whether the exes get back together, or they continue to try and live their lives apart from each other; the song nevertheless reminds us all, that oftentimes, getting over someone and living post-breakup is a hard thing to do. ‘Outrunnin’ Your Memory’ is a realistic portrayal of what people feel when they are faced with being single for the first time in a long time. And that, in and of itself, deserves the ambiguity of the song’s ending, as we’re reminded that songs don’t necessarily have to have a pretty bow-tied ending, for it to still be impactful and heartfelt.

‘On the Other Line’ speaks about fishing culture in small towns, and how fishing can oftentimes be used as a cop-out so that problems can be avoided instead of being dealt with; while ‘Any Given Friday Night’ depicts a typical Friday night around the places where Luke himself may have grown up, as a way for us to understand that just because Luke right now is famous, doesn’t mean that his town, or even how he grew up in his hometown, is any different compared to how we listeners have grown up. Just because someone is in the spotlight, doesn’t mean that they don’t come from humble beginnings, which is exactly the meaning behind ‘Any Given Friday Night’. ‘Used to Wish I Was’ is an honest look back at Luke’s life up until now, and himself reconciling the career and job that he is currently in, versus what he initially thought he was going to do when he was younger (a car racer). While Luke may have wished that he was good at _____ when he was younger, he’s glad now, that he’s not good enough at ____, but rather at music, because that’s got him to where he is now.

‘Better Back When’ is a sober look at someone’s childhood, and realising that things were probably better back then, when life’s difficulties didn’t occupy someone’s mind, and when someone could live carefree as a kid, without any worries that come with adulthood; while ‘Ain’t Far From It’ employs a country-rock sound (a la Keith Urban’s guitar skills) as Luke presents a track about his appreciation for his loved ones, and in particular his special someone, and how a song like this is an ode to how you ‘ain’t far from it’- from having a good time, from experiencing a night that can be enjoyed thoroughly by these two people for quite some time. The album is then rounded out by ‘Call Me’ and ‘Going, Going, Gone’- ‘Call Me’ is a confession where the persona is singing to their ex-lover, stating that they aren’t necessarily going to change, and that even though their ex-lover is going to call them names and say ____, in the end they’re still going to call them late at night, looking for something they know they shouldn’t be asking. ‘Going, Going, Gone’ is a sad look at a romance that was unfortunately doomed from the beginning- the persona laments that they fell in love with someone who was a wandering spirit- someone who longed to leave the place they were in and explore different cultures. While the true and right thing would be that both people travel the world and explore their love together as a unit, this song suggests, that one person in the failed relationship likes to stay put, while the other is a born wanderer. Relationships that are founded upon values that are so different unfortunately would fail- maybe ‘Going, Going Gone’ is a warning for people to not venture into relationships with people who tend to drop things and leave, to ‘find themselves’ when things get difficult and hard?

Growin’ Up is an album full of a lot of things- songs that are warnings, songs of hope, songs of assurance, songs about growing up, songs about Luke and the things he’s gone through up until this point. Growin’ Up is an album for anyone who’s been a fan of Luke’s for years, or even for those who aren’t necessarily initial fans of Luke. Listening to this album has been fun and enjoyable- this album is indeed the perfect one to venture down, especially if you haven’t heard much of Luke’s material before. And this album makes you want to hear more. And I probably will. And so, if this album encourages people to listen more to Luke’s albums going forward, then I guess this album served its purpose, right? With heartfelt tracks like ‘Doin’ This’ and ‘Tomorrow Me’, alongside confident songs like ‘Used to Wish I Was’ and ‘Middle of Somewhere’; Luke’s new album is indeed a standout, and one country album in 2022 where I was pleasantly surprised in a good way, considering I knew nothing much about Luke, going into listening to this project. Well done Luke for this 12 track project. Can’t wait to see how this album can impact and encourage people in the upcoming weeks and months ahead.

3 songs to listen to: Middle of Somewhere, Outrunnin’ Your Memory, Doin’ This

Score: 4.5/5

RIYL: Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line

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