I love getting to write up new artists, not for the “I told you so” factor years later when they become a household name, but just being able to introduce a new voice to readers is like passing on a mixtape to friends. After hearing Joshua Hyslop’s debut EP, Cold Wind last year, I scoured the internet over to find more music from the Canadian folksinger. Unfortunately, at that time he was just starting out, and it has taken a full year for the follow up full-length album on Nettwerk Music Group; but Where the Mountain Meets the Valley is finally here and it does not disappoint.
Hyslop’s deep, introspective lyrics accompanied by gently strummed acoustic guitar and banjo, play out over twelve gorgeous tracks of soul-searching, faith, and doubt. The past year has brought all kinds of new ups and downs, and this album is his attempt to make some sense out of it all.
The disc begins with the heartfelt “Do Not Let Me Go,” which stemmed from a desperate prayer in a dangerous time in his travels. Check the acoustic version of the song here, with an explanation by Hyslop on the meaning behind it. The CD is worth owning for that song alone in my opinion, but it just gets better as the record keeps spinning.
“What Have I Done” is an obvious stand-alone single that incorporates the banjo in more of an upbeat fashion, as well as the beautiful background vocals of Anna Scouten harmonizing on the chorus. “Wish You Well” is another tune with a faster tempo, but I still can’t decide if I like those better, or the contemplative, soul-laid-bare tracks, where Hyslop’s voice and emotions match at a whisper.
“Nowhere Left To Go” is one of those songs, and he begs/prays for God to show Himself, in a personal “Amazing Grace” style tune. He wrestles on the lyrics, saying “Father give me freedom, providence, and wisdom for when I am alone,” and then “If you were there, then you left without a sound. And I was lost, I’m not sure I was ever found.” Soul-searching lines like this, ground and deepen the beautiful acoustics playing, and make it a disc worth multiple listens.
“I Wish I Was” is another quiet tune that starts with a whisper, like a Damien Rice or William Fitzsimmons track, but the pace quickens to more of a late 60’s pace, reminiscent of the Eagles or Jackson Browne. Speaking of oldies, Hyslop also does a tremendous job of covering Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm” toward the end of the album, and it’s a treat to hear his mellowed-out, acoustic take on the classic.
Try This Track: “What Have I Done”