Duo High Valley: From Canadian ice road to country music success


High Valley at CMA Awards.  (Photo: George Walker IV / Tennessean.com

Cindy Watts , ciwatts@tennessean.com 12:01 p.m. CST November 23, 2016


Members of Canadian sibling duo High Valley are counting their blessings this Thanksgiving and sharing their good fortune.

Brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel — the voices behind Top 20 country hit “Make You Mine” — released their debut album, “Dear Life,” on Nov. 18. While the men have enjoyed considerable success in their home country with songs including “County Line” and “She’s with Me,” “Make You Mine” is their first chart success in the United States.

“It felt very, very exciting,” Brad Rempel said of watching their music succeed in the U.S. “The most important part is that now people can sing along to our shows."

“The best part of our show and everything we do is when people start to sing along,” added Curtis Rempel.

Just before Thanksgiving, the Rempels gathered their Music Row friends to give thanks for their success, celebrate their album release, and give to those less fortunate through Food for the Hungry. For each of the more than 200 party guests, a pair of shoes will be donated to those in need in Burundi, Africa.

"We are thankful for so much right now — it was staggering to look around that room and see the faces of so many friends in the business who have supported us all these years and allowed us to live out our dreams,” Brad Rempel said.

While “Make You Mine” is the brothers’ first singalong success in the United States, they have 15 songs in Canada that garner such a reaction. The brothers — two of seven children — are from La Crete, Alberta, Canada, a largely Mennonite community that is so far north it is reached by ice bridge in the winter. Brad Rempel said it’s “literally the end of the world.”

Their parents honeymooned in Nashville and visited the Grand Ole Opry. The brothers grew up hearing about Music City and remember Ricky Skaggs’ music filled the airwaves in their home. When the brothers started to play music, they veered to acoustic instruments because there were no stages, sound systems or lighting rigs in their community.

“You couldn’t go to the store and buy an effects pedal," explained Curtis Rempel.

The men came to Nashville with the goal of being on country radio and contemporizing their sound — with little success. When they reverted back to their roots in acoustic music and paired with pop producer Seth Mosley, people took notice.

“We loved it,” Brad Rempel said. “We felt like we were being authentic. He felt like he was being progressive.”

They posted “Make You Mine,” their idea of an updated 1800s barn dance, on iTunes, and the fan response was so overwhelming that multiple record labels approached them. The Rempels chose Warner Music Nashville because, they said, it felt most like a family. When their new record label opted to release “Make You Mine” as the brothers’ first single just as they had originally recorded it, it reinforced the Rempels had made the right decision.

“We’ve known about Nashville since we were old enough to know about geography,” Brad Rempel said. “I came here for the first time in 2000 and I’ve wanted to live here ever since. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Album Review: High Valley’s ‘Dear Life’



High Valley keeps in line with traditional country sounds while they explore Americana, rock and pop influences in their major-label debut album, Dear Life. Tracks of inspiration, desires of the heart and their journey as musicians make up the record. The 11-track project experiments with a variety of beats and guitar picking that keep the music interesting while they share their pitch-perfect harmonies.

Production elements blend genres to create foot-tapping beats and melodies that replay through your head all day. High Valley make their own sound that will stand out on country radio while staying in touch with country roots that serve as each tune’s platform.

The Canadian country group’s lead single, “Make You Mine,” has the most interesting sound on the album. It sticks out among the rest and will draw intrigued listeners into explore what other stories the duo has to offer.

“Dear Life,” the title track, shares feelings about making choices while growing up. Its message will resonate with much of their audience and may be representative where they are in their own life. It follows similar patterns as surrounding tracks, including heavy drums that bring the song to life.

“The Only” and “She’s With Me” have comparable themes of adoration. Their obvious pop influences match the song’s tone with complimenting faster-tempo beats. The featured repetitive hooks just about guarantee them stuck in your head all day as you fight the urge to dance along.

Americana influence is heaviest in the No. 8 title, “I Be U Be.” The back-and forth nature of the song has hints of tribal elements as strong imagery describes an ideal love scenario. Just as many other included tracks, “I Be U Be” stays clear of electric guitar solos and focuses on percussion and diction, a factor that might become a signature in their career.

The closing track, “Young Forever” has a similar vibe that compares to Billy Currington’s “We Are Tonight.” The embrace-the-moment trend adds a brightness to the album that contributes to its already high-spirited qualities.

Emotional tracks intertwined with flirty fun songs lead to this diverse album. Dear Life is an exciting piece of art that serves as a solid platform for the bright career they have ahead of them.