Luke Combs’ new song “Without You,” one of five bonus tracks on his upcoming What You See Ain’t Always What You Get deluxe album, is a stirring ode to the people who have shaped him into the man he is today. But what further sets the song apart is the inclusion of Amanda Shires. The solo artist, multi-instrumentalist, and member of the Highwomen and Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit, provides prominent fiddle — and earns a “feature” credit — on “Without You.”
It’s not the first time she and Combs have worked together: Shires joined the newly crowned ACM Male Artist of the Year onstage at the 2019 ACM Awards, adding fiddle to his performance of “Beautiful Crazy.”
“He’s just a really cool guy and he said, ‘I would love it if you would come play on this.’ And I said, ‘OK,’” Shires tells Rolling Stone. “Then we were hanging out playing. I went into the studio alone, because of Covid, with my mask and my gloves, and I put down those fiddle parts. I really, really like how that track came out.”
In the song, which Combs co-wrote with Wyatt Durrette and Dan Isbell, he sings the praises of his parents and the sacrifices they made. “Dad sold every record he ever owned/Floyd and Zeppelin, Beatles, Stones/A lifetime of music owned/Just to get me through,” goes the opening verse. Combs also touches on the love of his spouse, and in the end, the support of his fans. He acknowledges that his success wouldn’t be possible without any of them. “Me don’t mean a thing, without you,” he sings.
“The song is intended to be a thank you to my parents, beautiful wife, Nicole, and my fans,” says Combs, who got married in August. “I’m truly a lucky guy. Then having the extremely talented Amanda Shires contribute her beautiful artistry on fiddle took the song to that next level.”
Shires’ fiddle floats throughout the mix, playing the wistful main riff between verses as well as a nifty cascading solo that follows the second chorus. Shires says it’s a testament to Combs that he’d give her feature credit on the song without having a vocal part.
“It’s neat that he would come to such a merit-based decision in the country world, where a lot of women aren’t credited,” she says. “I’m a little older, I’m like 38 — or I have to look at Wikipedia — but it’s nice that that didn’t even come into question. You can feel change generationally.”
Combs recently notched his ninth consecutive country-radio Number One song with “Lovin’ On You,” which appears on 2019’s What You See Is What You Get. The expanded album What You See Ain’t Always What You Get arrives October 23rd and includes the new songs “Cold As You,” “The Other Guy,” “My Kinda Folk,” and “Forever After All,” in addition to “Without You” and his social-distancing ballad “Six Feet Apart.”