It’s already been a very good year for Luke Combs. His EP The Prequel, which he released early this summer, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums charts as soon as it came out, and the five songs on it charted as well. He’s been selling out arena shows, and he’s been nominated for three 2019 CMA Awards — Male Vocalist of the Year, Song of the Year (“Beautiful Crazy”), and Musical Event of the Year (“Brand New Man” with Brooks & Dunn).
The title of Combs’ new album says everything we need to know about Combs and his music. There are no frills here; nothing fancy. Combs delivers straight-ahead country music in songs that celebrate the virtues of good beer over other objects of affection (“Beer Never Broke My Heart”), the nostalgia of family memories (“Refrigerator Door”), the pleasures of honky-tonkin’ (“1, 2 Many”), and the plain-spoken virtues of an honest life (“What You See is What You Get”). Combs includes the five tracks from The Prequel — “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” “Refrigerator Door,” “Even Though I’m Leaving,” “Lovin’ on You,” “Moon over Mexico” — on What You See Is What You Get, along with 12 new tracks, all of which he co-wrote.
The raucous “Beer Never Broke My Heart” kicks off the album with its joyous bar room screams that “long neck ice cold beer never broke my heart,” affirming that there’s one faithful companion in life and that the singer’s ready always to have a few by his side. The screaming lead guitar on the bridge channels the best of Eric Church’s music (and Church appears on “Does to Me”). Combs balances the good-old boy not-give-a-damn posture of Hank Williams Jr., the soaring rock of Eric Church, and the heart-of-the-country honky-tonk of Brooks & Dunn (who appear on “1, 2 Many”). The dance-across-the-barroom-floor “Angels Workin’ Overtime” scampers along, raising a hellacious country honk to the people behind the scenes. The sparsely rendered love song “Better Together” is a tender ballad that Combs croons to his lover.
There’s no new ground broken on What You See is What You Get, but that’s not the point anyway. This is just good-time country music that will fill jukeboxes and float over thousands of people as they dance the night away at Combs’ arena shows. His voice can be tough or tender, but he delivers it all with in raspy-throated vocals that make him sound as if he’s been singing these songs forever.