I had the opportunity of seeing High Valley when they appeared at this year’s C2C. They appeared early Sunday afternoon at the Brooklyn Bowl, and I remember thinking that they put on a great show considering the early slot and were performing to a crowd who already had a Saturday evening in their system.
They performed with great energy and were obviously intent on making the most of their opportunity. The songs were new to the crowd but they created a very happy vibe and received a good reception. In March they were promoting ‘Make You Mine’ as their new single and such is the pedestrian progress of the US country airplay charts, the song has hovered around the top 20 all summer and autumn. They have now released their first full album for a major Nashville label and they may just have the momentum behind them to break through into the big league.
Brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel originate from Alberta, Canada. They have been releasing music since 2007. The first release ‘Broken Borders’ was independently released but had huge success in a relatively small market. It was named Album of the Year at the Canadian Covenant Awards and a single ‘Back To You’ was awarded Country Song Of The Year. A label deal with Open Road Recordings, a Canadian label, produced a further 3 albums before the guys signed to Atlantic Records in Nashville in October last year.
‘Make You Mine’ is their first US top 30 hit and has clearly opened doors enabling their push towards breaking the US country market. It’s an old song. It first appeared on their ‘County Line’ album in 2014 but their new Nashville label felt that it deserved wider exposure. It tells a familiar tale, passion and desire, but it does so in a very infectious style. It’s impossible to listen without imagining a pedal and a bass drum in front of you. It’s the song that Mumford and Sons would have embraced when they dabbled with a country style. The banjo drives the melody and their harmonies create a song that sounds as great on the radio as it does live.
The style is repeated on the album. ‘I Be U Be’ has the same drive and infectious chorus that will guarantee a beer-spilled floor when the crowd are singing along. Country party music at its best.
They have created a good time stomping album without compromising their country traditions. ‘Roads We’ve Never Taken’ is High Valley’s hoedown song. The urban dictionary defines a ‘hoedown’ as a ceremony where drunken hicks run around, clapping, yelling and sloshing hard liquor, all whilst listening to country music. I repeat, this is that song.
High Valley have hit on a style that isn’t actually being repeated in today’s mainstream country music. Most of the album is high tempo, bass drum driven songs with infectious sing-a-long choruses, and the challenge is for the listener to avoid clapping along or stamping your foot. This is essentially a commercial bluegrass album where melodies that would fit comfortably with a pop band are mixed with banjos and traditional country instrumentation. It works well and the album gets better after repeated plays.
‘Young Forever’ already has huge exposure on the ‘Madden NFL 17’ video game and again features a chorus that would fit on a One Direction song, until you realise that you haven’t actually heard a One Direction song that features a banjo.
The high tempo songs that dominate the album are broken up by a couple of ballads. ‘Don’t Stop’ relies hugely on the guys’ hugely impressive harmonies and the full instrumentation. They’re in anthem mode; definitely one for the phone lights! A personal favourite is the title track ‘Dear Life’, a song that starts with harmonies over a building banjo backing before it explodes into full ‘Mumford mode’. This is surely a future single and will be a huge song at their live shows. Talking of live shows, High Valley are touring in the UK next year and we won’t have to wait long before we get to experience the full party vibes that this album creates.
They have been perfecting their craft in the Canadian market for years and it’s now time for High Valley to expand. This is a damn good album that shouldn’t be overlooked.