Quickly garnering a following for their well-crafted songs and exuberant live shows, Shane Smith & The Saints released their sophomore album, Geronimo, on September 11th. Self-Produced and recorded in Austin, Dallas and Nashville, the collection consists of fifteen detailed story songs vividly brought to life by Smith (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar & Harmonica) and bandmates Chase Satterwhite (Bass, Upright Bass & Harmony Vocals), Bryan McGrath (Drums & Percussion), Tim Allen (Electric Guitar, Mandolin, Donro & Harmony Vocals) and Bennett Brown (Fiddle & Harmony Vocals).
Stylistically, Geronimo is a slight departure from the band’s previous work on Coast; here they fearlessly blend Country, Cajun and Irish music and Americana into an expansive, yet cohesive musical landscape. In addition to Smith’s incredibly sincere and emotive vocals as well as the collective's awe inducing harmonies and stellar musicianship, there is an immense depth and growth in the storytelling, which is thought provoking and oft times poetic. All fifteen tracks (penned by Smith sans two that he co-wrote with his wife) are compelling - like a book or movie that sweeps you up, allowing you to experience elation to sorrow to something so deep you just can’t put your finger on it.
Throughout the record, there’s a real sense of the duality of nature: of light and love, wide open spaces and the need to roam, as well as a sense of the dark, demons and temptation. That need to roam can be heard in “Runaway Train” on which he desires a seemingly reluctant love to join his journey, “What A Shame” which extols seeking something in life other than the mundane and “Lord Bury Me In Texas” the place he will ultimately return after all of life’s human journeys. There’s a somberness, almost a desolation and fear, in “Whiskey and Water” which focuses on temptation, while “Right Side of The Ground” tells of wrestling with demons “I’ve held hands with the devil into more than just one town…….I hope by 40 I’m on the right side of the ground” and finally, “I Can Hear Him Now,” with its rock tilt, finds him needing to face those demons head on in order to move forward.
Opening track, “The Mountain,” starts off acapella, then transforms into a vividly told folk song about coal mines. History and geography also play centrally in “Crockett’s Prayer,” “Oil Town,” a harmonica-filled waltz with hymn like harmonies and “New Orleans,” the story of a freed-slave’s ambition to become a musician leading him on a path to said city where “Sunday there at the Congo Square the rhythm never dies,” closing with a peaceful instrumentation that leads you to believe he ultimately reached his promised land.
The roots fueled high energy of “All I See Is You” tells of a young man's love for his wife while a similar sentiment can be found in the sweeping “When All Is Lost,” the intense “Suzannah” and the absolutely gorgeous “Born and Raised” on which Haley Cole provides stellar vocal assist. Closing out the album is “Geronimo” which here holds a dual meaning as both a tribute to the Apache warrior and his principles as well as Smith and Co.’s own commitment to music despite the odds they may encounter.
Smith has said, "This record is extremely important to us. It was never recorded to produce big radio singles. It wasn't recorded with the intent of fitting a working mold or sound. Geronimo was made to set us apart from all other bands and brand a sound that is completely unique to ourselves. And I think that's exactly what it will do."
Set them apart it certainly has and in a year full of new releases, don't hesitate to take your own leap and seek out Geronimo.