Luke Combs Enlists Billy Strings for Timely New Song ‘The Great Divide’ [Listen]
Luke Combs has built a career on songs such as the heartaching "Hurricane," the sentimental "Better Together" and the party-ready "Beer Never Broke My Heart," but a new collaboration with rising bluegrass star Billy Strings shows off a different side of his music.
"The Great Divide," released Monday (Feb. 1), is a timely track, reflective of the here and now in the same way as Combs' early-pandemic song "Six Feet Apart." Over a banjo-driven, lightly maudlin melody, the star takes a serious tone as he calls for unity: "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," he sings in the chorus.
"Sometimes it seems that our convictions ... makes us all too damn different to get along / But I've seen strangers love each other like a mother does her son / What we see ain't only all that's goin' on," Combs notes in a second verse that's more hopeful than its first. A wordless bridge gives Strings an opportunity for a banjo solo that shows off his critically acclaimed skills to a new audience.
Combs and Strings co-wrote "The Great Divide" with Wyatt Durrette in June, Combs shares in a tweet (though Combs and Strings were also writing together in the fall, a tweet from Strings reveals). They recorded the song in Nashville in January with producer Chip Matthews and musicians Charlie Worsham (acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo), Royal Masat (bass) and Eric Darken (percussion). It was, Combs notes, originally supposed to be part of a bluegrass album that has been shelved for now.
"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," Combs says in a press release. "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," he continues. "It’s just a guy kinda saying the way he was feeling when he wrote it."
Adds Strings, "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."
Combs recently scored his 10th-straight No. 1 country radio single with "Better Together," from his sophomore album, 2019's What You See Is What You Get -- that's every single he's released to radio since he began his major-label career. He had big tour plans for 2020 that were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though he's kept fairly active online, hosting a number of livestream shows. He also released a deluxe version of his sophomore album, What You See Ain't Always What You Get, in October; the project features "Six Feet Apart" and five additional new tracks.
Strings, meanwhile, released his major-label debut album, Home, with Rounder Records in 2019. It's up for Best Bluegrass Album at the upcoming 2021 Grammy Awards, while Strings himself earned an Emerging Artist of the Year nod at the 2020 Americana Honors & Awards.
Combs has recently made a habit of enlisting acclaimed collaborators: Iconic country duo Brooks & Dunn and superstar Eric Church sing with him on "1, 2 Many" and "Does to Me," respectively, both from What You See Is What You Get, while singer-songwriter and fiddler Amanda Shires plays on "Without You" from What You See Ain't Always What You Get.