If you are a lover of beautifully crafted, passionate and intelligently written Americana songs then an Andrew Combs gig is always going to be something special. Andrew is one of those enigma artists who everybody that comes across his work is amazed that he is not far more famous than his current standing. Tonight was a small gig in a room behind a pub in the increasingly trendy Dalston. Sadly for Andrew, Dalston is also one of the places in London not served by the underground and a bit too far out of the way for everyone except the locals and his determined fans. The support was Eric McEntee, a Californian who had been over in France on a small tour. Loose Records caught him on his way back to the States and felt he was a good match with Andrew. Looking a little like a younger Dylan with a black hat and a bootlace tie, Eric brought his gentle songs to life with the aid of a guitar that seemed to need constant tuning. A couple of strong covers including a Townes Van Zandt song were happily received and his pleasant manner with the audience came across well.
By the time Andrew came on there were just over 100 people in the room which filled it nicely and created more than enough atmosphere to make this feel special. Andrew’s latest album, Canyons Of My Mind, has set a different tone from his earlier work and he is exploring a wider range of themes including the environmentally poignant Dirty Rain. His voice and guitar are things of rare beauty and his intelligent touch with lyrics encourage the audience to listen carefully and be carried with him down his chosen path. Constant touring has honed his between song conversations and although he was missing his band he certainly seemed to be having as good a time as we did.
His set opened with Bad Habits and flitted between his earlier and later songs, with Rainy Day and Lauralee standing out as particularly beautiful. His own favourite, Too Stoned To Cry, sung with witty relish, and the haunting Hazel brought the main set to an end to truly enthusiastic acclaim. In conversation with Andrew, he readily admits that the ghosts of Mickey Newberry and Jesse Winchester, alongside the earlier mentioned Townes Van Zandt, guide his song writing and he is a very worthy successor to such greats. He says that in an ideal world he would just sit and write as that is what brings him the greatest satisfaction.
He played for well over an hour and his first departure from the stage left the entire room calling enthusiastically for more. It is the sign of an artist confident in his fans when he opens the floor to suggestions for the encore and the audience loved hearing Please Please Please which was followed by one of his cleverest songs, dedicated to his wife, the hugely engaging Strange Bird.
Andrew’s songs and performing skills are deserving of a much bigger audience as was evident when he played the Under the Apple Tree one day festival at Cadogan Hall in September 2016 and when he opened the Sunday night of Country to Country, again in 2016. For those of you who do not yet know his work, do yourself a favour and check him out – and for those of us who appreciate him, we live in the hope that his day is fast coming and he gains the stardom he should already be enjoying.