Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Andrew Combs: Tennessee Time

SONG Tennessee Time

WRITTEN BY Andrew Combs


APPEARS ON Tennessee Time (2010)

Exile and longing comprise one of country music's most enduring themes. While its Biblical roots resonate with the rural Christianity that formed country's original fan base, its popularity as a theme likely stems from the origins of radio and the diaspora of rural Americans that began with the Industrial Revolution and accelerated through the Great Depression and World War II. The Dust Bowl, the military draft, and the migration to high paying urban manufacturing jobs must have created a profound sense of dislocation for the young men and families suddenly far removed from everything they knew. Songs celebrating the simple, lost joys of rural life emerged, and, dispersed across radio waves, soon formed a vital part of the country music canon.

Newcomer Andrew Combs captures this sense of longing and belonging in "Tennessee Time," a sensation amplified in the wonderful video below. The first time I heard "Tennessee Time," I immediately thought that it would  make a great front porch song. The notion wasn't original; as it turned out, Combs thought so, too (see the wonderfully sweet video  below). In "Tennessee Time" the singer has returned home from a European tour that took him from Spain to Ireland, only to discover that "there ain’t nothing better/Than the Tennessee life."

Which is fine with him: The song is all about creating epiphanies that allow him to be "stuck in the moment of Tennessee time." Thus in the first verse, he gathers southern icons like sweet tea and a rocking chair, and repairs to the porch to sing "old country songs to the passerby." It's a moment where fast songs and sad lyrics make sense in the ineffable ambience of a Tennessee porch, and where a spiritual connection occurs in the "summers near the Cumberland Gap...stuck in a moment of Tennessee time."

Combs, who sounds like a fusion of Slaid Cleaves and Gram Parsons, names Guy Clark, Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, and Hank Williams as influences. Estimable mentors all, but the trick lies in finding his own voice via the path they lay. He's off to an impressive start.

I bought myself a little old rocking chair
Got a cup of
sweet tea, gonna sit right here
Singing old country songs to the passerby
Just stuck in the moment of Tennessee time

Spring brings green and a love so sweet
My heart tends to flutter and skip a beat
Me and my baby, we’re out of our minds
Stuck in the moment of Tennessee time

I’ve been known to roam
I’ve been to Spain
I’ve been out in the Galway rain
I’ve come so close
To what I thought was right
But there ain’t nothing better
Than the Tennessee life

I play a little guitar in a rock n’ roll band
We sing sad songs and play as fast as we can
The drums are loud and the words don’t rhyme
But we’re keeping good rhythm to the Tennessee time

Now I spend my summers near the Cumberland Gap 

I sleep outside, with the grass at my back
Just roll cigarettes, drink whiskey from rye
Still stuck in the moment of Tennessee Time 


  1. Huh! I've never heard of Andrew Combs. He's the perfect follow-up to your John Prine post; he seems to fit right into that genre, along with more of my favorites in that group - Prine, Greg Brown, Iris DeMent, Emmylou Harris, Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch... Heh, heh! I just gave you my dream line-up for the Newport Folk Festival! But Combs is a new name I'm gonna have to check out. Thanks for this!

  2. That's a dream line-up for any festival!

    Believe it or not, Combs' manager contacted me after reading my Just A Song entry about Slaid Cleaves. He asked me to give the EP a listen, and I loved it. Definitely check out his web site.

  3. I like how there's a link to the Wikipedia article on Sweet Tea embedded in the lyrics for those folks who don't have the pleasure of knowing about it!!
    Keep spreading the Good word!

    FYI, you can buy -and stream- Andrew's whole EP here:

    THANKS K!!

  4. Bo, I meant to include a link to Cumberland Gap as well. Thanks for reminding me!

  5. He sounds like Zachary Richard:


    Great stuff!

  6. Small point, but I heard "the drunks all laugh and the words don't rhyme" where you have "the drums too loud and the words don't rhyme". Works either way.

  7. Ethan, I pulled the lyrics from somewhere but that doesn't mean they were right. I prefer your version!

  8. Andrew's new album is great. I've blogged about it here from a UK perspective. https://blackcountryrock.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/thats-great-it-starts-with-an-earthquake/
    Please follow if you enjoy