Canaan Smith: ‘High Country Sound’ Album Review + Interview
Canaan Smith’s highly anticipated sophomore album, High Country Sound, is available now, April 2nd, everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a look below for our exclusive interview and full review of the project.
It may have taken you some time to recall the name “Canaan Smith” because it feels like forever since his name has been commonly used in country music. His debut album, Bronco was released in June of 2015 and it produced the massive single “Love You Like That,” which hit number one a month later. After taking a break from music for a few years, he became the first artist to sign with Florida Georgia Line’s newly-formed label, Round Here Records in August of 2019 and released the song, “Beer Drinkin’ Weather.” The release of other stand-alone singles such as “Life Ain’t Fair,” “Country Boy Things,” and “Pour Decisions” followed, and now, we finally have a true sophomore album from him.
High Country Sound is a project that speaks Smith’s truth from beginning to end. Impressively, Smith co-wrote every single song on the record, which is no easy feat. Not only that, but Smith also is the sole producer on 8 of 12 tracks and co-produced the remaining 4 with Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line. This is a standout achievement of the platinum hit-maker.
“When I moved here sixteen years ago from Virginia, I set out to write the kind of music that I’m doing now with this new album,” Smith tells us in our recent exclusive interview. “But somewhere along the way I sort of lost sight a little bit and started reaching more than digging and wasn’t doing what comes natural to me or what felt like an expression of who I am.”
Smith showcases his true, country-boy self throughout this entire album by discussing themes of love, heartbreak, growing up, and having a good time. You can hear the authenticity from Smith in the first two tracks, “Grounded” and “Mason Jars & Fireflies.” In the former, he reflects on hardships he has dealt with in the past but is thankful for them because they shaped the person he is today. In “Mason Jars & Fireflies,” Smith paints a beautiful picture of a simpler time when fireflies lighting up the summer sky were the most important thing on their minds. “Cabin In The Woods” also reminisces on summertime during his teenage years. He recognizes how much he has grown since then, but the memories made at that particular cabin remain fresh in his mind.
“Colder Than You” was the first song he released from this project and will serve as the lead single. Written with Corey Crowder and Jared Mullins, the singer finds comfort in a 12-pack when his girlfriend leaves him. This is not a sad breakup song, however. He realizes how much she tried to change about him, the people he hung out with, and the music he listened to and discovers he is happier without her. The cheeky and clever songwriting makes it a fun track to sing-along with and drink a beer to.
“Girl, I ain’t drowning your memory // These mountains are all that’s in here gettin’ blue // Baby, I might’ve finally found something colder than you.”
“High Country” and “Catch Me If You Can” are fun, upbeat songs all about having a good time. In the former, the singer’s girlfriend just ended things but he has a hard time being sad about it because “it’s hard to be low in high country.” This track contains a heavy amount of steel, fiddle, banjo, and harmonica, giving it a classic country sound. You can hear the Florida Georgia Line in these tracks, as they were both co-produced by Kelley and Hubbard alongside Smith.
“Sweet Virginia” is not only an ode to his home state but shows praise to his 1-year-old daughter, Virginia Rose. In the first verse, he reflects on the difficult decision to leave home to chase his dream in Nashville, but by the second verse, you can interpret the lyrics in either direction. This song is near and dear to his heart in two ways, which is probably why it was his favorite on the record.
“This record is an attempt for people to know me and that song covers all the bases,” he tells us. “In one listen you can kind of get the whole picture and story of my life until now.”
The final three songs, “Like I Ain’t Missing You;” “Highway Blues;” and “Losing Sleep Over A Girl” all touch on love and show his vulnerable side. In the first, the singer uses alcohol and other women to help him get over his ex. He acts fine, but deep down he knows he is just lying to himself. In the second, he hops in his car and goes for a long drive to try and ease his mind. He states: “Wish I was holdin’ you ‘Stead of huggin’ on a yellow line.”
The album ends on a positive note however, as he tells the story of how he fell in love with the two girls in his life: his wife and his daughter. It all started with a kiss after a George Strait concert; he could not sleep that night and he cannot sleep now due to his crying baby. The sweetest part is, he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Wide awake, heart racin’ // So hypnotized // Lost in the moment, still lost in her eyes // As the sun made its way ‘cross the dark side of the world // There I was again / Losing sleep over a girl”
Smith discussed in our interview that he didn’t care about making a “cool” album with commercial success; he just wanted to create a project that was authentic and true to himself.
“The more you write your personal truth, it seems like that would be more isolating but it’s the exact opposite. In my experience, the more honest and open I am about my personal self, I find it resonates stronger with people than the other stuff does…I’ve gotten messages from listeners that have been finding themselves in these songs and feeling like they’re connected to them and it makes me feel really proud.”
It’s very easy to make something generic that everyone can relate to. Smith trusted his gut, took the necessary time, and put out a genuine record that contains elements of modern and traditional country with moments of celebration, heartbreak, and honest stories. It must have been a lot of pressure to come back with a sophomore record six years after your debut, but Smith delivered, and in a big way.
NYCS Top Picks
- Losin’ Sleep Over A Girl
- Colder Than You
- Sweet Virginia
Canaan Smith’s HIGH COUNTRY SOUND Track Listing:
1. “Grounded” (Canaan Smith, Jim Beavers, Ben Stennis) *
2. “Mason Jars & Fireflies” (Canaan Smith, Brian Kelley, Corey Crowder) *
3. “Colder Than You” (Canaan Smith, Jared Mullins, Corey Crowder) ^
4. “High Country” (Canaan Smith, Blake Redferrin, Corey Crowder) ^
5. “Catch Me If You Can” ft. Brent Cobb (Canaan Smith, Brian Kelley, Tyler Hubbard, Jason Afable) *
6. “Cabin In The Woods” (Canaan Smith, Josh Miller, Brian Kelley, David Garcia) ^
7. “American Dream” (Canaan Smith, Blair Daly) *
8. “Sweet Virginia” (Canaan Smith, Brian Kelley, Tyler Hubbard, Corey Crowder) ^
9. “Still” (Canaan Smith, Ben Stennis, Jim Beavers) *
10. “Like I Ain’t Missin’ You” (Canaan Smith, Blake Redferrin, Jason Afable) *
11. “Highway Blues” (Canaan Smith, Jake Rose, Brian Kelley) *
12. “Losin’ Sleep Over A Girl” (Canaan Smith, Marv Green, Kyle Fishman) *
* Produced by Canaan Smith
^ Produced by Canaan Smith, Brian Kelley + Tyler Hubbard
* Interview Conducted by: Erica Zisman // Written by: Dylan Bestler for NYCountry Swag
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High Country Sound is now available everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released music here on our ‘New Country Music’ playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.