Nashville solo artists Amy Stroup and Trent Dabbs came together again to present us with an American folk / jazz inspired album. This would be their sophomore album, excluding the holiday album they released in 2012. They have songwriting links to Ingrid Michaelson and have also been on tour with Kacey Musgraves. Although Dabbs has received many TV appearances in Nashville, The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars; The pair as a band have received nearly 200 TV/film placements in shows like Parenthood, Grey’s Anatomy, Target, Zales, to name a few.
The band’s name Sugar & The Hi-Lows most definitely reflects in the tempo and emotional variation in the music. High Roller kicks off with an authentic, old school country/folk vibe as it opens with the track “Bees Left The Trees”. It is a song that immediately gets you moving, as it is doused with live instrumentation and this tempo is kept up for the first quarter of the album. The tracks that follow, “Can We Be Adults” and the title track “High Roller”, still keep you moving with the former creating visions of American school dances in the 60s.
The album goes on to a quieter vein in the second quarter with tracks like “I Don’t Get High”, “Right Time To Tell You” and “Morning Joy”. The songs are written with great emotional depth that remind you of a time in place in your life, and almost leaves a feeling that you’ve heard the song before. A track like “Right Time To Tell You” sounds similar to a vibe and lyric of The Civil Wars. But also, the track “Morning Joy” is a stand-out as it is the most soulful of all the songs and an almost instant reminder of Aaron Neville’s “Tell It Like It Is”.
The tempo picks up again in the third quarter with the tracks “Graffiti Hearts” and “Pick You Up”. The latter is a Smokey Robinson created with modern instruments such as the drum pads.
The album closes with two emotional songs, “Tennessee Quick” and an album highlight “Heaven”. The instrumentation in the former is subtle and beautiful. The instrumental solo in the middle of the song never feels overdone or in your face, it’s very well moderated and effective. The album ends with the very stunning final track, “Heaven”. A love song for the ages, with the sweetest melody in the entire experience.
As an experience, this album is consistent in that, even with the ‘high-lows’ in the tempo variations, the songwriting never gets watered down and the production is much more consistent and coherent. The sound created from the fusion of both solo artists is quite admirable because the music does not sound like it was created by a pair, but by a whole.