Sound — 8
Country-pop trio High Valley pervade a bluegrass soul sonorous on their self-titled release from Centricity Records embossed with a prairie-land folk strumming that has an inspirational edge reminiscent of vintage Shenandoah. Hailing from the rustic environs of Alberta, Canada, High Valley consists of three brothers, Brad Rempel on lead vocals and guitars, and Bryan and Curtis Rempel on guitars, mandolin and backing vocals. The group fuses modern pop fibers with classic country textures and forms a hybrid that rises to the heights of Little Big Town's vocal harmonies draped in a frothy country steam relatable to Rodney Atkins. High Valley's sound leans towards the cowboy gentleman side of country music reflective of Blake Shelton rather than the heavy grumbling and rugged, outlaw gruffness of Waylon Jennings or Willie Nelson. Produced by Shawn Neff and the Rempel's long-time friend Paul Brandt, High Valley's self-titled album helps push country-pop into mainstream radio. The tooling of country ridged guitars in I Will Stand By You is logged by foot stomping beats with a bluegrass ringtone which switches over to the breezy strokes of On The Combine streaked by intricate detailing in the guitar chords and sizzling accents in the springy twirls of the mandolin. The songs have an earthy feel cloaked in ambient vestiges like the swirling motions of When you Call My Name with overtones of dancing mandolin chords, and the blissful ruffling in the acoustics of The Only Way He Knew How are collared in crystal-like trickles giving the track an ethereal-bent. The song pays homage to the Rempels father whom they credit in their bio for providing for them the best way he could. Many of the songs advocate family values and speak about the burdens brought on by life's challenges. The band leans towards a gentleman's approach in dealing with life and family issues fortifying their songs with an earthy elegance.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics appeal to people who care about family. In My Way Back Home, the verses drive this theme in with a wholesome perspective, Momma puts a bible in my glove box / And a hot homemade apple pie in the passenger seat / She said You'll always be my baby' / She planted a kiss and a couple of tears on my cheek / Dad slipped me some traveling cash through a map with it highlighted right on the dash / And I realized as I look back that / They weren't just saying goodbye / They weren't just seeing me off / They were just making sure I don't forget where I'm from The band also wears their religious beliefs on their sleeves like in Faith with words that probe, Everything he owns is riding on the rain clouds in the distance / He's waiting and praying / Says it's out of my hands / Nothing more I can do / I've given my best now / It's all up to you / There comes a time when you have to let go / God only knows how I've tried but now I'm down to faith.
Overall Impression — 8
High Valley are riding on the swells that are pushing country-pop into mainstream following the crests that brought Rascal Flatts and Lady Antebellum into worldwide arenas. High Valley are accomplishing this objective with their self-titled album while holding onto their bluegrass country roots and family values. Their songs are wicked by catchy rhythmic hooks planked by tiles of bluegrass soul producing a palette that is made for modern country-pop.