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Andrew Combs: Tiny Desk Concert

Andrew Combs On Mountain Stage
Brian Blauser
/
Mountain Stage

The concept of our Tiny Desk is to capture artists up close and personal, a design that couldn't be a better fit for Andrew Combs' recent music. He and his band loaded in the standard drums, bass, guitar and keys — even a saxophone or two — behind the Desk, but Combs deploys the instruments sparingly in transparent arrangements that delicately undergird his soft, high tenor and falsetto vocal stylings.

He is a risk-taker in his singing, songwriting and even in his visual art. The Nashville-based artist boldly moved away from his Americana pigeon-hole on his album Ideal Man, brilliantly flirting with rock and pop. His latest, Sundays, which this Tiny Desk set relies heavily on, was another left turn. Inspired by his personal struggles amid the height of the pandemic, Combs recorded the album in mono, giving these contemplative songs the intimacy of living room performances.

Combs builds this set artfully. He starts with the incantatory "Shall We Go?" inspired by Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, sliding right into "Anna Please," based on Ingmar Bergman's devastating film Cries and Whispers — two theatrical works exploring the absurd nature of life and the quotidian horror of death. That a song like "(God)less" follows, should be no surprise. "It's about finding beauty in the chaos," Combs says.

And then, as if to remind us that not all is lost, he ends with a love song so sweet and pure it could take your breath away. Combs is an artist who keeps challenging himself and us. And isn't that what great art is supposed to do?

SET LIST

  • "Shall We Go?"
  • "Anna Please"
  • "(God)less"
  • "Like A Feather"
  • MUSICIANS

  • Andrew Combs: vocals, electric guitar 
  • Caleb Hickman: piano, sax
  • Dominic Billett: drums, electric bass, vocals
  • Jerry Bernhardt: electric guitar and bass, vocals
  • TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Tom Huizenga 
  • Director/Editor: Maia Stern
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen
  • Videographers: Maia Stern, Joshua Bryant, Keren Carrión, Kara Frame
  • Audio Assistant: Alex Drewenskus
  • Production Assistants: Sofia Seidel, Jill Britton
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Marissa Lorusso, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer, Pilar Galván
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.