Album Review: High Valley - “Dear Life”

American major label debut places Atlantic Nashville's "Make You Mine" duo in a category all their own within mainstream country music.

From the moment that the bands like The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons became hugely popular with alt-rock audiences with joyful, rhythmic acoustic songs I felt like that was a lane for a country band to take and own and that’s exactly what High Valley has done with their Atlantic Nashville debut Dear Life. 

Dear Life balances eleven mostly upbeat and rhythmic songs with soaring family harmonies (High Valley features brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel) and tight, modern production from Seth Mosley and Mike “X” O’Connor. This is a band which sounds like nobody else (even the rock bands mentioned above), which is always a good thing. “Make You Mine,” the song most fans know as it rises up the radio charts and into the Top 20 is only the opening salvo on a record which also features the passionate “Don’t Stop,” and the title track, “Dear Life,” both songs which many would consider ballads. The former more so with a pretty, lilting melody and the latter one that recalls Avicii’s “Hey Brother” with percussive soaring choruses juxtaposed with acoustic, almost Bluegrass verses.

“I Be U Be” is a song with an interesting melody and — again — Bluegrass vibes but what makes the whole song work is the band’s harmonies and strong, heartfelt lyrics. While “Make You Mine” introduced High Valley to country audiences, “She’s With Me” is the song which will make High Valley big stars with its banjo-soaked, hand clapp-y melody and declarative lyrics. “Young Forever,” a song which has already been heard by millions of people thanks to being featured in the Madden NFL 17 video game. The song blends a pop melody with country instruments and that’s what makes it work as well as it does and it feels like a future hit as does mid tempo ballad “Memory Makin’.”

It’d have been easy for High Valley to go the route of everyone else and sound like a “me too” band and maybe for a while that may have been the case but whenever they set about making this record, they hit upon a sound which hasn’t hit mainstream country music before and it’s a sound that’s wholly their own and a sound that works. Dear Life is a strong release and one that suggests bright things in the future for High Valley.