High Valley is a Canadian Country duo that hails from La Crete, Alberta. The duo is made up of brothers Brad and Curtis who have released four albums. I have followed High Valley for a few years and they always had a few songs that I enjoyed. Previously High Valley had only released singles to Canadian Country radio but, in February the duo released their first single to American radio “Make You Mine.” Make You Mine is a song that immediately reminds one of Mumford and Sons and their song “I Will Wait” which is something to note in regards to their sound. On previous albums you had songs like “Make You Mine” and “She’s With Me” that had that folk/pop sound but, with this album they go completely in that folk country direction. What Dear Life does if nothing else is make clear what High Valley’s sound is going to be henceforth. The way that I would describe their sound is the infusion of folk, pop, country and bluegrass in that order. This is not traditional country music.
My biggest takeaway from the album is that there are two major flaws on an otherwise enjoyable album. The first problem with the album that I have, is that it does not feel personal. What I mean by this is I don’t feel like after listening to this album I know anything about High Valley besides their sound. The album is full of uplifting, fun songs but, there is not one song that feels personal. My other problem with the album is there is not one heartbreak song. Now, not every album has to be a breakup album filled with heartbreak like Tradition Lives however, couldn’t you include one or two?
My criticisms of the album do not mean that I think that High Valley’s music is bad in fact, I really enjoy the individual songs on Dear Life. If you are looking at the songs one by one they are fun, uplifting songs with a positive message. One of the songs on this album I liked is the title track “Dear Life.” This song describes how quickly life goes by and wanting to hang on for as long as you can. The song talks about how the narrator has loved every minute of his life even though he has had some “hits and misses” along the way. Something this song fails to do however is go into any detail about any subject that is broached. The song moves so quickly which adds to the fun and energy of the song but, we are left without any substantive material. My favorite song on the album is “Don’t Stop” which is the closest we get on the album to slowing down the pace and trying to be more descriptive. “Don’t Stop” is another song with a positive message about being who you are and chasing your dreams no matter what. The duo actually goes on to describe some of the instances where you shouldn’t stop moving forward such as when you get your heart broken, faith and loving life while you have the opportunity.
“Roads We’ve Never Taken” has some bluegrass, country and folk influences blended together and displays the best music on the album. There is banjo, steel guitar and acoustic throughout the song with a fun drum tap beat. The song is about leaving home and going to new places you haven’t yet been before. The song is about not settling for the same monotonous life at home every day and the need to change things up occasionally. The low point on the album is actually a part of the Madden 17 soundtrack “Young Forever.” Just the title of the song gave me horrible flashbacks to “Live Forever” from The Band Perry. The song is straight pop and the theme of the song is that they are going to stay young forever. I hate this idea for a song and not just because it has been done to death but because the premise is just awful. As if there is something wrong with growing up and acting like an adult instead of a stupid frat boy. Usually on mainstream country albums the best song is buried last on the album but, in this case the worst song is buried which I guess is a good thing.
The current single “Make You Mine” and the first song on the album “She’s With Me” are both songs that were recycled from their last album County Line. I actually liked the original version of “Make You Mine” better because it included a verse by the legendary Ricky Skaggs but, it’s not a bad song. “She’s With Me” is way too much pop for my tastes however, when you dig into the song it’s not a bad premise. The song is about the narrator being amazed that his spouse is with him. The song describes a woman who is out of his league and sticks by him through thick and thin. He does not know what he would do without her and it’s clear that he loves her. What ultimately drags the song down is the hand clapping and during the chorus when the song goes “She’s with me e e e e e e e.”
I would consider Dear Life to be a debut album even though High Valley has been around for some time and recorded a few albums already, since this is their American debut. What Dear Life does well is define the duo’s sound and provide songs with a positive and uplifting message. What the album fails to do is get personal, being descriptive and not having a single heartbreak song. As individual songs, most of them are enjoyable to me however, as an album it is lacking. I would recommend giving this album a try as long as you go into it knowing that this is not traditional, down the middle country music.
Album Grade: 5.5/10
Favorite Song: “Don’t Stop”