Happy Valley is a curated collection of twelve original instrumental tunes written when Wyatt Ellis was twelve-years-old. The album, named for a holler near his home in East Tennessee, showcases the skill of a thirteen-year-old Wyatt playing alongside twelve of his mandolin heroes, backed by an all-star bluegrass band. Produced by Justin Moses, the project was serendipitously recorded on Happy Valley Road, a homestead once owned by Grand Ole Opry member Grandpa Jones and his wife Ramona outside of Nashville. Although purely coincidental, the picturesque title reflects not only a love of his home state's natural beauty but also the rich musical legacy of the musicians who were here before him. Rooted in tradition but adventurous in spirit, Happy Valley illustrates Wyatt’s reverence for the genre’s pioneers, as well as a respect for its trailblazers.
Throughout Happy Valley, Wyatt switches styles with ease, from the upbeat twin mandolins of Grassy Cove to the haunting Two Rivers Waltz which features the young musician playing Vassar Clements’ fiddle. Alongside the whistle-able melody of the title track, Happy Valley, tunes such as Maryville, Goin’ to Townsend, and Little Pigeon were inspired by his childhood in East Tennessee. Wyatt pays homage to the clean, bluesy playing of David McLaughlin on Johnson Mountain Blues while Whites Creek, Wildwood, and Sandy Gap, tunes that mirror the tradition and style of Bill Monroe, were co-written with three of the genre’s top Monroe-style mandolin players. Get Lost was named as a nod to Johnny Cash and his first visit to Cash Cabin the day Marty Stuart recorded his iconic solo on Wyatt’s rousing fiddle tune Blue Smoke.
Happy Valley is a vivid snapshot of Wyatt's boundless musical creativity and curiosity in its earliest stages. Throughout his debut album, the young multi-instrumentalist effortlessly layers his respect for the history and tradition of bluegrass with humble virtuosity. At any age, an album this impressive is an incredible accomplishment. However, in referencing Wyatt Ellis, mentions of his age become irrelevant. Taken together, these twelve tunes seem to echo from somewhere beyond his years, beyond Wyatt’s home in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains; echoes that are still there, still alive, still inspiring, still pulsing the way they have been since the beginning of time — guided by the ancient tones to which we are all connected.