REVIEW: High Valley – Live At O2 Institute3, Birmingham

If you are someone who keeps tabs on the US country charts, you will be aware that High Valley have been a permanent fixture with ‘Make You Mine’ for the last year. It’s a song that refuses to disappear and is still hovering around the top 30.

They appeared in an early afternoon slot at the Brooklyn Bowl at last year’s C2C, and they have now embarked upon their first mini headlining UK tour, taking in 5 dates in Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Aberdare and a sell-out show at Bush Hall, London.

We caught up with Brad and Curtis Rempel at the Birmingham show which was held at the Institute, a building that dates back to the early 1900’s and was formally a church and a civic centre, but is now a 3-room concert venue.

Support band were American Young, a Nashville-based duet consisting of Kristy Osmunsun and Jon Stone, who released their first album in August last year. Kristy took to the stage wearing a fur coat and indicated that the temperatures in the UK were not what they were used to. The room was decidedly cool at this stage unlike our last visit when we all sweated watching Dan + Shay.

They had their first hit with ‘Love Is War’ which they performed accompanied by Jon’s acoustic guitar. The set was hugely complemented by the banter between the two and with the audience. Genuinely funny guys who clearly created a very good impression with the locals. Jon’s song writing prowess was demonstrated by his version of a song that he co-wrote for Lee Brice, ‘A Woman Like You’, which had the Brummies singing along. They were extremely well received by a crowd that probably wouldn’t have known too much about them before tonight. American Young will be appearing at this years ‘Buckle and Boots’ festival and we are sure that they will go down a storm. Let’s hope Kristy won’t need her fur coat in July!

High Valley’s album ‘Dear Life’ was only released 3 months ago and it was clear that the tour was intended to heavily promote that. They took to the stage and opened with ‘I Be U Be’ which has the signature high energy beats and the infectious catchy chorus. Brad and Curtis were joined on stage by 4 guys who formed their backing band. It was refreshing to hear the full sound. Many of their contemporaries from Nashville tend to tour acoustically because of cost restraints, but High Valley now have a major label deal and we guess the full band and the swanky tour bus parked outside were the trappings of that.

Inevitably High Valley’s audience will be predominantly female, and there were plenty of adoring and noisy fans towards the front of the stage. The album’s up-tempo tracks, ‘She’s With Me’ and ‘Young Forever’, were extremely well received but High Valley’s country credentials were put on show when the crowd were invited to dance along to their cover of John Michael Montgomery’s ‘Be My Baby Tonight’.

The incentive to let your hair down were prizes from the band’s merch store, and the impromptu dance contest was judged by the bass and banjo players. It’s amazing how the traditional British stiff upper lip melts away when there is a chance to win a tour cap!

The album tracks kept coming. ‘The Only’ and ‘Roads We’ve Never Taken’. But a personal highlight was a track from the band’s self-titled album that was released in 2010, ‘The Only Way He Knew How’, which was actually dedicated to a mentor rather than their dad. The guys told the story of a local farmer who had believed in their talent so much that he had remortgaged his farm to help fund their relocation to Nashville from their Canadian home. He was described as their token ‘father’.

Although the band have been making music for 10 years and have recorded 4 albums, most of the recent converts would probably only be familiar with the ‘Dear Life’ album and the song that has put them on the map. ‘Make You Mine’ is a great live song and the only question was whether High Valley would save it for the encore. They actually performed it as the last song of their set before the encore. The crowd’s reaction and participation meant that we were treated to an extended version before the guys left the stage to a very heartfelt ovation. The encore was ‘Dear Life’, another storming track that could well be the follow-up single and really ought to extend their stay in the US Country Charts.

They are genuinely nice guys who were hugely impressed with the reactions that they were receiving on this, their first UK tour. They stayed behind for photographs, signings and a general chat and left a very favourable impression upon the locals. They described themselves to us as a band that seem to always be “new somewhere” despite their actual musical longevity. They were certainly new to Birmingham but we hope to see them back here soon.