Ian Matthews

Valley Hi

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With ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith at the helm and an array of C&W sidemen on hand, Ian Matthews recorded what is probably his most overtly country album to date, 1973's Valley Hi. The record opens with a pair of tracks -- his own "Keep on Sailing" and the traditional "Old Man at the Mill" -- that had been scheduled to appear on the second release by his former band Plainsong, which Elektra chose to shelve. Matthews then proceeds to cover rarities by Randy Newman and Richard Thompson, whose "Shady Lies" had only surfaced before on an obscure 1969 recording by Fairport crony Marc Ellington, as well as chestnuts by Jackson Browne and country legend Don Gibson. Elsewhere, he delivers terrific versions of Nesmith's tale of friendship turned to love, "Propinquity," and Steve Young's now classic "7 Bridges Road." Matthews' excellent rendition of the latter set the standard for the song, which became a hit in the early '80s for the Eagles, using an identical arrangement. He also added one new original, along with two (including "Keep on Sailing" and "Save Your Sorrows") from the aborted Plainsong release, all three of which rank with his best. Though he has since stated his dissatisfaction with the album, Valley Hi nonetheless remains among Ian Matthews' finest.

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