2017's Canyons of the Mind saw Andrew Combs hewing closely to the sepia-toned '70s singer/songwriter architecture of his previous works. Part outlaw and part coffeehouse crooner, Combs' efficacy as a modern countrypolitan torchbearer is on full display with the arrival of Ideal Man, a compelling 11-track set that looks to the cosmic country stylings of Lee Hazlewood for inspiration. Recorded live in the studio in Brooklyn with producer Sam Cohen (Kevin Morby, Benjamin Booker), Ideal Man commences with the fuzzed-out "Stars of Longing," which sees longtime collaborators Dom Billet (drums) and Jerry Bernhardt (guitarist/keyboardist/bassist) laying down a propulsive net of sound that helps elevate Combs' Walt Whitman-esque declaration of self into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. The Everly Brothers/Cactus Blossoms-inclined title track strikes a more somber, though no less sanguine tone ("I envy the drunken poet in a fitful of rage/mind pried wide open/his heart on the page"), while the languid and significantly more settled "Like a Feather" evokes the sunset balladry of Glen Campbell. Elsewhere, Combs radiates warmth on the country-soul confection "Hide & Seek," channels keyboard-heavy '80s AOR on the syrupy smooth "Born Without a Clue," and delivers a spooky Twin Peaks-ian torch song with "The Stone." He wraps things up with the heartfelt "Golden," an aptly named slice of late-summer light inspired by the birth of his daughter. Working with a handful of talented writers including Joe Henry, Kenny Childers, Jeff Trott, and Dylan LeBlanc, Combs has crafted another remarkably solid collection of songs that look to the past without succumbing to the questionable weight of nostalgia.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger