Gone West, “Canyons” (Triple Tigers Records)
The full-length debut album from Gone West sets the tone right from the album cover — the four members languidly walking up a road in Malibu, California. It's warm and they are sun-kissed.
Grammy-winner Colbie Caillat — known for effervescent pop hits including “Bubbly” and “Realize” — joins Justin Kawika Young, Jason Reeves and Nelly Joy for a Nashville sound mixed with southern California. Together, they make music reminiscent of Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum.
Four of the songs first appeared on the band’s debut 2019 EP “Tides”: “Gone West,” “Home Is Where the Heartbreak Is,” “This Time” and the outstanding “Confetti,” a rare fun celebration of a breakup.
The song “Gone West” here again acts as the band’s letter of intent, with each member having a verse about finding each other in different parts of the country. It's wonderfully crafted, catchy and smart — like the band.
This is a group whose tender, blended harmonies aren't faked. Reeves and Joy have been married for eight years while Caillat and Young dated for a decade before calling it quits this year. Underlining the authenticity of the album, the cover was shot near the home Reeves and Joy share.
The four songwriters and performers have worked together and complement each other effortlessly, like a country Fleetwood Mac. “Good vibes chillin' on cruise control,” they sing on the sunny “R&R.”
The 13-track “Canyons” shows more of the band's range while staying firmly in the country genre. There's gorgeous depth to many of the songs, like “Gamblin' Town,” which has a whining steel guitar and folk influences as the lyrics cleverly equate the music industry to a numbers racket. “Slow Down” is a lazy river of a song with Vince Gill making a guitar cameo, and "Knew You" has a reggae vibe.
Another highlight is a reworking of a Caillat deep cut — “I'm Never Getting Over You,” which she co-wrote with Young for her 2014 album “Gypsy Heart.” Here, Gone West have slowed it down, added strings, rewritten lyrics and made it into a piano-fueled duet with male vocal. It has gone from power pop to an achingly beautiful ballad.
The album ends on a dreamy high with “Tides” — borrowing the title of their EP for a full-circle moment — with Young adding a verse in Hawaiian. “Every time we say goodbye/We say hello to what’s on the other side,” the group sings.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits