Insistently pushing its way out of the speakers with an urgency that will subtly produce a lurching beat before we know what’s even happening, “When I Lift Up My Head” begins to play. There is both hesitation and recklessness here, but neither is strong enough to overtake the sense of discipline created by the structure of the rhythm in this song.


Unlike the scattered but whole “That’s What Love Is,” “When I Lift Up My Head” is meant to highlight the sonic Jekyll and Hyde that lurks in the background of High Road’s best moments in their new record Straight from the Heart, and it sets the perfect tone for what follows if I do say so myself. If the mood is everything to the millennial listener, this is an LP certain to make a huge splash this year. 

“There’s a River” is oddly heavy for how simplistic and relatively smooth its compositional design is, but its contradictions don’t stop it from sounding like a hit – truthfully, they’re what make this track one of the harder tunes to put down in Straight from the Heart. “Through You” is a lot more controlled and focused around an old-school CCM stylization (think Emmylou’s best crossover stuff, only with a decidedly greater affection for yearning hooks), and when paired with “Keep Your Lamps” the two songs are the best identity pieces you’re going to hear on this record. If High Road is telling us a story across these ten songs, it’s a personal one; if it weren’t, I don’t know that any of this material would sound as searing as it does.

Turning up the string prowess for “Sing a Hallelujah” and the freeing tone of “There is a Rock,” High Road starts to sound like a country powerhouse as we get into the second half of Straight from the Heart. “Only in the Cross” takes the conceptualism of “That’s What Love Is” and launches it into another universe of possibilities only slightly experimented with in this album while “What If That’s What Heaven’s Like” feels like a classic number too retro for many to record. What makes them a perfect combo is the continuity created by the passion of their creators, who pummel us with more emotion in these two tracks than many will anticipate discovering here. It’s amazing content and something I would come back to this band for in future releases. 

Straight from the Heart comes to a heavenly conclusion with the divine “Working on a Building,” a performance that firmly plants High Road’s interests in the gospel camp over any other in the country spectrum at the moment. When it’s all over and the music has ceased to play entirely, it’s easy to turn around and cherry-pick the preceding nine songs just for some additional context and clarity now that we’ve heard the LP in its entirety. Straight from the Heart is a mystery and a mightily irresistible way of getting to know High Road, and in either case, I recommend listening to it before the start of spring. 

Garth Thomas