The natural order of anything works like a pendulum. Swinging to and fro, life tends to balance itself out in the end. Sports, politics, relationships. Music is much the same. Shane Smith and the Saints have had a steady climb as they’ve ridden that unstable, yet dependable pendulum for the past few years. They’re on a definite upswing at the moment. Years of relentless touring and a finely crafted live show that features Eagles-esque harmonies alongside Stringduster level musicianship wrapped up in a Texas Country/rock n’ roll attitude has brought the band to a new dawn.
Graduating from acoustic busking type gigs to Econolines and now a Prevost, the Saints have never lost sight of their goals or souls. The music they make is pure, throwback infectious folk-tinged country music. Their debut album Coast set the table, the follow-up Geronimo raised the bar, and Hail Mary is the pay off. The sound is realized, contextualized and synthesized to its core elements in a way that is undeniably unique and fresh. The band’s sonic textures are driven by Smith’s deep, haunting voice trading melodies with the adeptly flexible fiddle of Bennett Brown. The pocket is locked down by bassist Chase Satterwhite and drummer Zach Stover. The adventurous guitar experimentation of Tim Allen provides a nice counterpunch to the acoustic pluckiness of the other arrangements. The band has learned what to put where, when to put the throttle down and when to coast down the hills of melody and riff.
Audiences have been connecting with the Saints due to this one of a kind sound. There is no other band that puts on a show that looks and sounds like a Shane Smith and the Saints show. Hail Mary is a project as ambitious and grand as the band’s sonic scope. The cover art evokes a classic western crossed with Indiana Jones and as a listener you know the music is going to be big just by the artwork. Big it is. Big voices, big stories, big instrumentation. The songs on Hail Mary sound as if the Saints are standing on the North Rim edge of The Grand Canyon and playing to an audience on the South Rim side. That expanse and vibe allows the songs to breathe around Smith’s booming vocals and the precise acoustic arrangements.
This is not a twangy or classic country album. It’s what many hope modern country music could be. It takes relics of previous generations and produces an entirely new sound. Smith and his pen have always had a clear-eyed view of the perspective he’s presenting. On this record, he’s detailing the ride they’ve had on that pendulum. Empty bars, long highways, loved ones back home, hell raising, sold out shows, relationships built and lost along the way.
Shane Smith and the Saints have risen to the forefront at precisely the right time. The world is craving something with substance. Something that makes you feel something. This music is something you feel in your brain, heart, chest and soul all at once. It’s a rousing, roaring, searing trip through life, afterlife, subconscious, the past, future and most alarmingly the present. Capturing a fantastic live show in a studio setting is difficult, but the Saints have done just that. And, the pendulum isn’t done swinging up for them just yet. Hail Mary indeed.