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Review: Andrew Combs' 'Ideal Man' is tuneful and sensitive

Andres Combs, "Ideal Man" (New West Records)

On "Ideal Man," Andrew Combs trades in some of the high-gloss finish of his previous work for a trebly kaleidoscope of sounds that underscores a beguiling set of highly-emotional tunes.

Combs, Texas-born and Nashville-based, shaped by his recent dedication to painting as well as the birth of his daughter, says the brushwork increased his sensitivity while the parenting responsibilities seem to have deepened the sentimental connections of the songs to his own surroundings and the wider world.

The arrangements mix psychedelia, acoustic and electric sounds, a handful of classic keyboards and generous reverb. Along with Combs' sensitive but resolute singing, they keep "Ideal Man" far from any sappiness, despite the depth of emotions.

Opener "Stars of Longing" seems conjoined at the hip with the title track that follows it, both songs forming a sort of statement of purpose. The first imbues its lesson of "there's only love" with fuzzy guitars and a cracking snare, while "Ideal Man" lists hunters, coyotes and drunken poets as possible characters for "just a stranger waiting my turn to be somebody."

Other highlights include the desperate "Shipwreck Man" and its sweet backing vocals, the vulnerable "Hide and Seek" and "Firestarter," where lament, caution, resignation and recrimination combine for a bitter but prudent farewell as Combs' voice expertly travels across a full range of feelings.

Closer "Golden," one of the record's most tender moments, ponders the inevitability of his child's growth while lending support for the journey — "One foot in front of the other/I'll be right here/If there's too much ground to cover."

"Ideal Man" is an exceptional example of quality songwriting and adventurous musicality.