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Album Review: Gone West’s ‘Canyons’

You can tell a lot of love (and heartbreak) went into Canyons.

Album Review: Gone West’s ‘Canyons’
Gone West; Photo Credit: Patrick Tracy

Gone West pour heart and introspection into their debut album, Canyons.

The quartet of Grammy Award winner Colbie Caillat, Nelly Joy of former country duo the JaneDear girls, Joy’s husband and Caillat’s frequent songwriting collaborator Jason Reeves and Hawaiian Music Award winner Justin Young met in 2016 while touring with Caillat in support of her album The Malibu Sessions, their friendship blossoming into the country band formed in 2018.

gone west
Gone West; Cover art courtesy of Triple Tigers Records

Gone West collectively shines across the 13-track Canyons, a stunning debut filled with glistening harmonies and poignant storytelling that reflects the chemistry between the longtime friends. The compelling lyricists welcome listeners in with open arms on the autobiographical “Gone West.” One can’t help but smile when the genial opening notes greet one’s ears, each singer’s spirit shining through as they capture the beauty of the place their fellow band mate calls home, taking us from the vast oceans of Young’s native Hawaii to the sweeping flatlands Reeves was raised on in Iowa, making for an inviting introduction.  

A noteworthy element of the project is the distinct way in which the group carries compassion into heartbreak, setting this tone with “What Could’ve Been.” Their voices blending mellifluously as they follow a couple looking back on the simple ways they could’ve saved a relationship that was once filled with love, the group tells this story with gentle grace and powerful euphonies that capture the pain of regret. “When to Say Goodbye” follows suit, the ballad delivering such delicate poetry as “with enough time rain can shape stone, when you mean them words can break bones.”

While heartache is a consistent theme across the album, Gone West demonstrates an innate ability to take a seemingly unfortunate situation and find the silver lining, exhibited by the bubbly “Confetti.” Equipped with a sparkling melody, Gone West turns goodbye into a celebratory occasion complete with flowing champagne and colorful confetti abound to commemorate a welcomed breakup. But there’s no sun to dissipate the clouds in “I’m Never Getting Over You,” told from the harrowing perspective of someone still in love with the person who’s walking away. Conveyed by Young’s haunting vocals, the dark piano notes match the song’s somber nature that offers some of the most potent lyrics on the record, Young and duet partner Caillat uniting as they proclaim, “take a good look at the pain in my face before you walk away, memorize all the hurt in my eyes, not what I say.” Meanwhile, “Gamblin’ Town” chronicles the struggles of being a dreamer, comparing the pursuit of one’s passion to that of a game of poker where trust is scant and there’s no guarantee of victory, but your dedication to the craft keeps you in the game.

The group ends the album with a pair of sobering moments with “This Time” and “Tides.” Written in the aftermath of the tragic mass shooting at Route 91 Harvest Festival and the passing of Tom Petty in 2017, “This Time” encourages us to appreciate the preciousness of time with such lyrical wisdom as, “life and love they don’t, age like fine wine, there’s no time to waste to taste the sweetest fine, so let’s fill this cup and drink it up tonight, cause next time, there might not be a this time,” their harmonies soaring alongside the twinkling melody and reflective words. And just as warmly as they invited us in, Gone West sends us off with hope and reassurance on “Tides.” Here, the foursome adopts a positive outlook on life, encouraging fans to navigate rough waters by riding along with the tides. “Every time we say goodbye, we say hello to what’s on the other side,” they assure, leaving the listener with a sense of comfort.

Gone West sprinkles magic over Canyons with their shimmering harmonies, heartfelt lyrics and hopeful notion that we’re all constantly evolving into who we’re meant to be – a universal message that shines a light in the darkness at a time when we need it most.