Video premiere: James Combs, ‘Circle Days’

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Singer-songwriter James Combs has a catalog that spans more than two decades, including solo albums, tunes he penned for film and TV and, notably, the Laurel Canyonesque folk outfit Great Willow, launched in 2017 with singer-cellist Erin Hawkins.

Combs is as adept at introspective confessionals as he is sharpening his pen to play topical folk singer. And like any artist whose work takes society’s pulse, there’s probably no period in Combs’ career during which he has had more to write about than the past few years.

On the heels of last year’s socially distanced collaboration with country rock stalwarts I See Hawks in LA, “Radio Keeps Me on the Ground,” Combs this week steps away from Great Willow to release a double single, “Strange Signs” and “Circle Days.”

Both arrive with a familiar folk-pop shimmer, weighted by the duality of what life served up in the past year. They are as Combs satys, “snapshots of L.A. life in turmoil — a time of blue skies and protest marches.”

With the two-song release, Combs launches a bimonthly series that will feature songs made with jack-of-all-trades John Would (Fiona Apple) and drummer Matt Hergert, both longtime collaborators. April Mann, Combs’ sister, provides background vocals on “Strange Signs,” which for some might crystallize the summer of 2020: Participate in a protest march during the day, hole up at home and worry at night.

“Circle Days,” which features vocals from Kelly Atkins, has an R.E.M. vibe and a “Groundhog Day” theme, both of which suit our madding times. “The finish line is just the starting line / when circle days strange the ways of time,” Combs sings, and his homespun video for the track cements the notion that we are all in this together … alone.

||| Watch: The video for “Circle Days”

||| Also: Stream “Strange Signs”

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