I sometimes forget the country music genre creates full-length albums. Oftentimes, I hear singles on the radio or thanks to some friends, but I never really sit and listen to a country album all the way through.
Then Luke Combs released his fourth studio album, “Gettin’ Old,” this past Friday, and I thought I would give it a try.
This 18-track album is a direct follow-up and companion to 2022’s “Growin’ Up,” as it bears a similar album cover and title. When placed side-by-side, the album covers create one image.
This album was also produced by Combs, Chip Matthews and Jonathan Singleton, another similarity to its predecessor.
Regarding the overarching theme of the record, Combs said it reflected the stage of life he is currently in and a paradox between not being young but at the same time, not being old.
“[This stage of life is] one I’m sure a lot of us are in, have been through or will go through,” Combs said. “[It is] loving where life is now but at the same time missing how it used to be and living in the moment but still wondering how much time you have left.”
The opening track, “Growin’ Up and Gettin’ Old,” connects these two records with lyrics that encapsulate the themes of the album perfectly. The song reminisces Combs’ younger days and attempts to create a balance with his current stage of life, working as an excellent prologue to the following 17 tracks.
One thing I thought was spectacular was the “call and response” songs Combs switched between during certain topics. For example, the ninth song on the record, “A Song was Born” talks about the country singer writing his first song. The tenth song, “My Song Will Never Die” sees Combs relish in the fact his songs will live on long past him. These two songs connect Combs’ past and future seamlessly.
Additionally, Track 13, “Take You With Me,” touches on Combs’ father teaching him to drive. This song is then followed with a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” which discusses trying to get away from a hard spot in your life.
Incidentally, when I heard Combs was covering Chapman’s 1988 hit, I was a bit skeptical, but I ended up pleasantly surprised. While no one can top Chapman’s original, I found the interpretation to be enjoyable as Combs stayed faithful to the original and the song suited his voice rather well.
Musically, “Gettin’ Old” exhibits a departure from Combs’ earlier sound. Rather than up-beat country rockers, the majority of this fourth record finds Combs in a reflective state. Many of the songs are soft and more traditional compared to the mainstream country dominating today’s charts.
According to Combs, this shift in sound was a result of his personal life.
“‘Growin’ Up’ leaned more towards my first two albums and ‘Gettin’ Old’ is a shift towards a more mature sound,” Combs said. “With me being married and having a kid and the things that were happening at the time I was writing the songs, I felt like there was this big juxtaposition in my life.”
Combs went on to describe the juxtaposition as living two separate lives: one which consisted of touring and drinking with friends while a second consisted of staying home with his wife and child.
Lyrically and musically, I thought “Gettin’ Old” was a fantastic body of work and proved to me the country genre cares about album making just as much as the rock and pop world (maybe even moreso).
I would have preferred the track listing to be cut in half, especially since there was a lot of filler and redundancies throughout the record, but I thought it was fantastic for my commute home regardless.
At an hour and five minutes spanning 18 songs, this album is the longest and perhaps most ambitious of Comb’s entire career. However, beyond the lengthy runtime, “Gettin’ Old” tells a beautiful story of life, death and living the days you have on earth to the fullest.
While the lengthy runtime may scare away some listeners, the music taking up the hour is quite good and even inspiring in some points.
Out of 10 stars, “Gettin’ Old” warrants 6.5.