Justin Rutledge’s latest album, Valleyheart, is undoubtedly for the lighthearted. The record is unapologetically mellow, soft and tranquil.
His serene style is working for him. Valleyheart, Rutledge’s fifth album, has earned him several Canadian Folk Music Award nominations, including songwriter and contemporary album of the year. He’s told Exclaim! that aspects of Valleyheart were a revisiting of his debut album, 2004′s No Never Alone. Rutledge wanted to return to that album’s themes and creative inspirations, he said, but this time as a more experienced musician.
Specifically, “Kapuskasing Coffee” and “Heather in the Pines” were written at that time, but never made it on the record. The Toronto-based singer-songwriter contends that for Valleyheart, he co-wrote those songs with his with younger self.
But “Kapuskasing Coffee” sounds anything but amateur. This wispy tune, that ironically alludes to heavy metal throughout, features backing vocals from British singer-songwriter Carina Round and begs to be played over and over, fittingly at your local coffee shop.
One of the album’s notable qualities is its ability to show instrumental restraint — like in “Out Of The Woods” — striking a balance between memorable guitar lines and humble vocals. The song boasts an infectious, yet simplistic, guitar riff — the kind you’d want playing while driving down a Nevada desert road in a 1968 Cadillac Coupe De Ville, smoking cigarettes and reflecting upon a successful heist. It’s one of the better songs on the album, mostly because it so strongly distinguishes itself from the other slow-going tracks.
Some of the other tunes eventually become repetitive by album’s end, so if you like something that packs more of a punch, it may be better to listen to Valleyheart in doses.
Valleyheart is available on iTunes.
Justin Rutledge showcases his excellent songwriting skills, but would benefit from diversifying the tone on this album.