by Jessica Nicholson
Luke Combs is known for his propulsive, everyman brand of country-rock hits such as “Hurricane” and “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” but his latest release finds Combs leaning into some bluegrass roots and addressing the social and political divisions in the United States.
On Sunday (Jan. 31), Combs released “The Great Divide,” a collaboration with bluegrass artist Billy Strings.
We’re all so far, so far apart now/ It’s as deep as it is wide/ We’re about to fall apart now/ If we can’t reach the other side/ We gotta find a way across the great divide, Combs and Strings sing in the chorus, their interwoven vocals complementing mandolin, banjo and acoustic guitar work from Charlie Worsham, driven by percussion from Eric Darken.
Combs and Strings co-wrote the song in June 2020, alongside Wyatt Durrette, for a bluegrass project Combs had been working on. That album has since been put on hold while Combs is working on his third full-length album to follow his double-platinum album What You See Is What You Get, and his triple platinum project This One’s For You.
“It felt like a good time to put this out,” Combs said of “The Great Divide” via a social media post on Sunday. “I have been staying busy and writing this past year and really miss being out on the road. There was something that I have always wanted to do, which is write and put out a bluegrass album.
“I wrote a bunch of bluegrass songs in June of this past year and I had plans to write a bunch more,” he continued. “COVID continued to get worse around the holidays, I wasn’t able to have a lot of those in-person writes that I wanted to do and with the people I wanted to do them with because of the state of the world.
“I’m officially gearing up for my next full album and so unfortunately that [bluegrass] project is on the back burner for right now,” he explains. “But it felt like the right time to put this song out…This is a song that was supposed to be a part of that project. It’s not a lead single or a lead-in to that project yet, because that is not done. But it felt like the right time to put this song out. When we wrote it, there were a lot of crazy things going on in the world. There’s still a lot of crazy things going on in the world. And I just felt like I had some stuff to say. It’s not meant to be political. It’s not meant to try and tell you what to think or tell you how to believe. That’s not my job. It’s just a guy kinda saying the way he was feeling when he wrote it.”
Strings added via a statement, “This song is our interpretation of the conflicts and tension we had been witnessing/experiencing around the time we wrote it. We wanted to shine a little light on the situation and offer a bit of hope during what has been a tough time for many.”
Strings’ latest album, Home, reached No. 1 on Billboard’s bluegrass albums chart, and is currently nominated for a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album. He was also nominated for Emerging Act of the Year at last year’s Americana Music Association’s Honors & Awards.