So for those who might not know, Country Music Minds had originally shut down in October of 2016. We weren’t gone for long (we came back in December of that same year), but during that brief period of time there were albums that came out that we unfortunately never got to cover. Granted, that time of year is never really crucial for covering any new releases seeing as how things usually slow down, but last year there was some music I definitely wanted to cover.
Thankfully we were able to cover Miranda Lambert’s The Weight Of These Wings as well as Curtis Grimes’ Undeniably Country, but there was one other one we wanted to cover that I’ll always kick myself for not being able to – High Valley’s Dear Life.
Now, for those who don’t know, High Valley is composed of brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel (they also had a former brotherly member, Bryan Rempel) who both originate from Alberta, Canada. Their lead single in the United States was “Make You Mine”, you know, that song you never want to hear again for the rest of your life because radio killed it for you? You might also know it as the ripoff of Mumford and Son’s “I Will Wait”. Either way, I don’t quite think this duo has been viewed in the most favorable light thus far in their careers, even though the single brought a healthy dose of contemporary bluegrass to the table.
Now, back whenever I used to follow the crowd and be a critic, I would have probably been harsh to this album. I’ll admit, these boys have a long way to go as lyricists, and while the album itself is a lot of fun and a STRONG showcase of instrumental and production aspects, there are some that don’t work as well.
And this brings us to an interesting confession here, mostly because if I’m getting right down to it…I love the album. I remember one time my friend Michael Rauch of the Cheap Seat Report told me there’s a difference between acknowledging when music is good and bad and also acknowledging when you do or don’t like music. What he means is, sure, sometimes music is bad, but it doesn’t automatically mean you have to dislike it.
That’s where I fall with this album. There are many problems I could point out, and yet for some reason, this album more so than any other I’ve ever listened to is just making me say “you know what? Screw it, I dig it”. While it never made our year end list, it’s probably one of my most played albums of 2016, no joke.
What I love about it is the high energy it brings to the table. Sure, the lyrics lean bro-country a lot more than they should, but damn it, the problem was never bro-country as a whole anyway. The problem was that there was never anything to distinguish those types of songs from one another or give them any flavor. Telling a girl she’s “Miranda Lambert crazy” is literally doing nothing creative or fresh. It’s just stupid.
This album though…man, I don’t know what all to say. It’s very high octane bluegrass/country/pop that proves how this sub-genre could legitimately work given the right production and instrumentation. How many contemporary bluegrass acts do we have in mainstream country? Yeah, exactly.
Now that’s not to say that’s what this album is as a whole, but I just know that’s the easy criticism most people will back on here, and that’s fine. Your opinion is your opinion, but I’ve always thought there was more to it than that, and now I finally know why.
The title track is actually an extremely great track about life literally never slowing down, and considering how fast paced it all is, it works so damn well in matching the tone! “Roads We’ve Never Taken” is just an incredibly fun, legitimately country track that would have been a single at another point. It’s too damn fun not to like.
Now that’s not to say this would have been my number one album or anything like that. It may have been one of my most played but it certainly wouldn’t have made my top 10, and that’s why I don’t rank based on number of listens. Besides that, there are problems as well. “I Ain’t Changin'” reeks of rural pandering, and the patriotic references in “Soldier” just sound clumsy considering the guys are Canadian.
There’s other little nitpicks I have with certain songs as well, but on the flip side I still really enjoy them for what they are. “Young Forever” is a huge guilty pleasure of mine, and shit, while we’re talking about guilty pleasures might as well throw out “I Be U Be”, “Memory Makin'”, and “The Only” while we’re at it. I do think the instrumentation is a lot more organic than its given credit for, and as a whole there’s a very bright energy to it. It sounded good in November, and it sounds even better at this time of year. Maybe it’s bad. Hell, maybe it’s a horrible album, but I like it.
So yeah, I essentially just reviewed one of my favorite albums of 2016 way too late. and while liking this may ruin my country credibility, that’s the whole point of this feature. Judgment be damned.