Joshua Hyslop makes a solid debut with Where the Mountain Meets the Valley
Where the Mountain Meets the Valley (Nettwerk)
Abbotsford’s own Joshua Hyslop is an instantly likable singer-songwriter with a gift for intimacy and almost ghostly mood-making.
The standout here, “What Have I Done?”, fits in with the current, banjo-driven sound of Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers and is further enlivened by soulful support from singer Anna Scouten as well as an insistent frame drum and shots of discordant harmonies in the distant background. (There’s another version featuring French vocals from Salomé Leclerc.)
There are nice touches throughout, thanks to Hyslop and coproducer Digory Smallz, with French horns, cellos, and various bell-like sounds adding ear-pleasing decoration. But the singer’s natural setting is fluid, guitar-backed tunes and stories simply told.
Still, the debut CD’s hushed tone gets slightly oppressive at times, and Hyslop sounds awfully world-weary for such a talented 24-year-old. When he raises his voice, as on the second half of “I Wish I Was”, a strongly emotive tenor voice emerges. The artist’s overall approach works best on a fully realized song like Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm”, but there’s not much doubt that Hyslop will soon be etching his own indelible melodies. The haunting title cut comes close.