If you’re looking for the best album of the summer, look no farther than Shane Smith & The Saints third record, Hail Mary (Geronimo West Records). However, this isn’t an album filled with breezy road trip music. This album is intense, with stories from a band that’s been touring the last ten years and all the highs and lows that go with that. It’s songs about being away from loved ones for extended periods of time, the stress that can come from being on the road constantly with the same group of people, the burnout that can come from following your dream and doing so at a breakneck pace. These are songs with substance and soul. Listening to the album for the first time, you can hear in each song the same thoughtful storytelling and lyrics that the band is known for. The icing on the cake is the band’s unique sound. Once you hear the harmonies of the band and Shane’s powerful and distinctive voice, you’ll never forget them.
Shane Smith & The Saints have kept their fans waiting on a new album since 2015, when their previous record, Geronimo,was released. Although fans have had a chance to hear songs off the new album, Hail Mary, at live shows within the last few months, the band finally started releasing their new album in chapters. May 15thwas the date of the release of the first chapter (the third chapter premiered here: Chapter Premiere: Shane Smith and the Saints’ “The Path” )and the fourth and final chapter will be released on June 28th. The release of Hail Mary comes at the perfect time for fans of Red Dirt music. With a sizeable hole left by the recent announcement of an indefinite hiatus of The Turnpike Troubadours, Shane Smith & The Saints and their blend of Red Dirt, folk rock and Americana music, go a long way with filling the void that this genre needs.
Along with a new album is a new band member. Joining Shane Smith & The Saints is lead guitar player, Dustin Schaefer, formerly of Mickey and the Motorcars and The Black Lillies. Schaefer replaces former lead guitar player, Tim Allen. The rest of the band has stayed the same with Shane Smith on lead vocals, Bennett Brown on fiddle, Chase Satterwhite on bass guitar and Zach Stover on drums. Although a replacement in a band often feels like it brings a different dynamic, the sound is still there and the vibe of the band is still one to behold live, as I witnessed last month at their show in Oklahoma City.
Speaking of Oklahoma City, that is by far my favorite track off of the new album. Although I’m a Tulsa girl, there’s something about a song making reference to your home state that you can’t help but love. Right off the bat, I was drawn to the haunting fiddle solo that begins and ends the song. Shane’s smoky, deep voice is captivating on this particular track. Hailed as a “slow burner”, the song does indeed start off slowly, but begins to build tempo as it progresses. Mid song features an epic guitar solo, followed by Shane’s voice reaching a crescendo, before finally ending with the fiddle and piano, makes for a song that I’ve had on repeat for most of the last month.
If you’ve ever lost in love and you know that the two of you had something special, you’ll want to listen to “We Were Something,” a stripped down song featuring my favorite combo of piano and fiddle with Shane lamenting in the chorus that:
So to hell with the old oak tree
Where the carving used to be
Even the blindest fool could see
We were something
We were something
Even with an album full of songs with big feelings and raw emotion, this particular track feels like the ballad of the album. You can’t help but feel the desperation and loss with the line:
You said it all, you said it all
As I begged you on my knees
And you said nothing
If you listen to the album carefully, you’ll see that it takes you on a journey. From the first chapter, which is a summary of the band’s last five or six years together, to the second chapter which details the darker moments, songs of heartbreak and bad decisions. Chapter three is the recovery chapter, which the listener finds songs that address moving on from the pain found in the previous songs. The fourth and final chapter is the end, which takes a look at the future and what can happen now that the pain is over and one moves on to the next steps in life.
As a fan of the band, especially those that have listened to the two other albums, Coastand Geronimo, you may be wondering if Hail Mary can possibly compete with those two. I’m going to confidently say yes, but also add that in particular, Geronimois hard to top with fifteen songs that are all equally as amazing and that fans have been listening to and loving for the past four years. Although with equally good songwriting and stellar musicianship, just like the previous two albums, Hail Mary feels different. Perhaps because it draws more from fact than fiction, as it is pulling from the band’s own experiences in the last ten years. Make no mistake, this is a great album and one of the best of the year, in my opinion. Likely you’ve heard the entire album by now, but if you haven’t, go buy it or stream it from your favorite outlet. Find it here: http://www.shanesmithmusic.com/store/. after you read our interview of Shane Smith, here: Interview: Shane Smith: ‘Writing Music is Something I’m Passionate About”