Canaan Smith has gone through a lot since the release of his debut album, Bronco.
For starters, Smith is now a family-man – welcoming his first daughter into the world in 2019. But he has also experienced many ups-and-downs professionally. Three years after his smash-hit ‘Love You Like That’, he parted ways with Mercury Records Nashville. Following the split, the Virginia boy through-and-through wanted to make music closer to his country roots.
Luckily, Smith found two label heads that had the same passion for amazing country music, none other than Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line. Shortly after, Smith was announced as the first artist on ‘Round Here Records’, FGL’s country label. ‘High Country Sound’ is smith’s first release on the new label, and this sophomore album is bigger, bolder and better than his previous work.
The album starts with ‘Grounded’, a rich song that showcases Smith’s strength as a vocalist. There is real maturity and depth in his voice as the lyrics cover themes of growing up and gratitude:
“And don’t forget the girl that broke my heart and wrecked my plans
Cause they made me who I am
From the red dirt on my boots, to the red word Gospel truth
I’m tangled in these roots that keep me grounded”
This is followed by ‘Mason Jars & Fireflies’, a fiddle-heavy song that draws influence from Appalachian music. Despite feeling quite traditional, the song wouldn’t feel out of place on country radio against Canaan’s pop-inspired counterparts. Fun, fast-paced and authentic, it’s a real highlight.
This sets the sonic tone for the rest of the album, and the classic roots sounds can be heard throughout the album. The duet with Brent Cobb, ‘Catch Me if You Can’, is a rock-infused country banger. The two male vocals sound wonderful together, and the fiddles give this song a luscious textured sound.
The production on the album, done by Smith himself, should be praised, as it really shows off his bluegrass inspiration behind many of the songs and gives a true insight into his background. Across all twelve songs. there are vibrant melodies, great harmonies and authentic sounds.
The tongue-in-cheek number ‘Colder Than You’, shows off Canaan’s playful side with a message to an ex-lover:
“Girl, I ain’t drowning your memory
These mountains are all that’s in here getting blue
Baby, I might’ve finally found something colder than you”
‘High Country’ is a party anthem. This one feels inspired by some of Eric Church’s earlier work, which is meant as a great compliment. You’ll hear some harmonica and steel guitars, sure to please classic country and rock fans alike.
Some great lyricism is on show throughout the album, especially on ‘Sweet Virginia’. This sweet tune describes Smith’s love for Virginia, both the state and his young daughter (also called Virginia). The song is a beautiful offering, and it’s this level of lyrical depth which makes this album so enjoyable.
‘American Dream’ is a song about God’s timing and patience, a message incredibly relevant to most of us bearing in mind the last year’s events. Paired with some beautiful traditional instrumentation, this is a stand-out on the album.
The album’s title, High Country Sound, is a perfect depiction of the music inside. It’s meaningful when it needs to be, fun in others, and the production makes this album an enjoyable listen with some great depth.
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