With Platinum number one single ‘Love You Like That’ under his belt and his debut album ‘Bronco’ riding high, things looked promising for Canaan Smith in 2015. The road to his second album proved to be rockier than anyone could have predicted with a couple of false starts and a label change that led to Smith taking time out to reflect on the kind of artist he wants to be. The first artist signed to Florida Georgia Line’s Round Here Records, Smith started releasing one-off tracks in 2019 and 2020 saw his first radio single in years, ‘Colder Than You’, released; the first single from his long-awaited second album ‘High Country Sound’.
‘High Country Sound’ is without a doubt a reset for Smith. Releasing himself from the pressure to make music that works on Country radio, he’s crafted an album of 12 tracks that shows what he’s truly capable of as an artist. With co-writes on every track, Smith has solely produced eight of the songs and co-produced the remaining four with Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard, both of whom had a hand in the writing of some of these songs. The album opens with ‘Grounded’, a moment that allows Smith to set out his stall for what’s to come and finds him acknowledging the people in his life that helped him become who he is today. It’s a nice way for Smith to share the time he’s spent reflecting with his fans and it’s a perfect slice of traditional Country.
From there on, the album ebbs and flows in a perfect sequence as Smith shares stories from his life and truly taps into his abilities as a songwriter. ‘Mason Jars & Fireflies’, a song destined to be a live favourite, is a raucous uptempo gem that celebrates siblings growing up together in the wide open. Banjo riffs are rife in the production and the melody is so catchy, you can’t help but hum it long after the song finishes. Lead single ‘Colder Than You’, which takes the same swoonsome feel that Keith Urban struck gold with on ‘Blue Ain’t Your Color’, allowing Smith’s voice to really shine as it swoops and soars over the melody.
There truly isn’t a bad song on ‘High Country Sound’. From the swaggering confidence of the title track through to closing track ‘Losin’ Sleep Over A Girl’, which captures the feeling of falling in love, Smith impresses. The Brent Cobb collaboration ‘Catch Me If You Can’, is a highlight on the record with its fast-paced rhythms that teeters towards outlaw Country, while ‘Cabin in the Woods’ is an acoustic-driven number that looks back on young love and reminisces on special memories. ‘American Dream’, a song that Smith wrote a decade ago, is a celebration of a life that’s fulfilled and it’s Smith sharing gratitude for the things he has.
On the final stretch of the record ‘Sweet Virginia’ is a touching homage to Smith’s home state, ‘Still’ is about switching off from the world and reconnecting with nature, and ‘Like I Ain’t Missing You’ is a story of finding it hard to move on after the breakdown of a relationship. The bluesy rootsy ‘Highway Blues’, another standout moment, explores the struggle of being on the road and missing your home. It’s a sentiment every artist can understand and it hits us fans in the feels too.
‘High Country Sound’ is the album I always knew Smith had within him and this is the best version of him that we’ve heard. Every song deserves its place here and the collection is a testament to why there is still a market for the album. From the production to the sequencing down to Smith’s lyrics and everything in between, Smith doesn’t put a single foot wrong on ‘High Country Sound’. For me, it’s the most cohesive album I’ve heard from any genre in some time and it’s further proof that Smith is one of the best artists in Country music. ‘Bronco’ scratched the surface of what he can do but ‘High Country Sound’ is the work of an artist that is comfortable being the most authentic version of himself. It’s also the best record I’ve heard so far in 2021.
Track listing: 1. Grounded 2. Mason Jars & Fireflies 3. Colder Than You 4. High Country 5. Catch Me If You Can (feat. Brent Cobb) 6. Cabin in the Woods 7. American Dream 8. Sweet Virginia 9. Still 10. Like I Ain’t Missing You 11. Highway Blues 12. Losin’ Sleep Over a Girl Record label: Round Here Records Release date: 2nd April 2021 Buy ‘High Country Sound’ now