Kelly Jones is a name synonymous with the last 25 years in British music, however he’s certainly not played a part in the country and Americana scene. The Welsh rocker, frontman of Stereophonics, is a household name and his hits like Dakota and Local Boy in the Photograph provided the soundtrack to a generation, but 2023 sees him take a turn and team up with Patty Lynn and Dwight Baker of Austin-based The Wind + the Wave.
This new project, Far From Saints, has been a long time coming. In fact, their self-titled album was recorded several years ago and shelved due to pandemic and other such inconveniences. A musical connection has long existed, since The Wind + The Wave supported Stereophonics in the UK. Then, as the duo supported Kelly Jones on his 2019 solo tour, that connection grew into much more and the three hit the studio during breaks from the road.
At this point, I have to be very honest, this writer grew up (and still is) a huge Stereophonics fan. However, I can assure you that fact has not swayed my opinion on or added bias to what is a really impressive debut from the trio. But should it come as a surprise that Jones has involved himself in a country/folk/Americana record of such impressive proportions? Absolutely not…
Let’s briefly look back to Word Gets Around, the 1997 debut Stereophonics album, each song a well-crafted insight into life in a small town, tales of everyday life, tragedy and celebration. Whether it’s stories from people’s lives in Texas, Tennessee or Cwmaman, the fundamentals of country and Americana music have always held a place in his writing style. Even recently, Stereophonics 2019 album Kind, felt like a stylistic shift in this direction (perhaps not coincidentally since this coincided with work on Far From Saints).
When listening to the Far From Saints album, the first thing that strikes you is how well the voices of Kelly and Patty weave together, creating a sound reminiscent of some of the great male/female duos in the genre. Opening track Screaming Hallelujah could have been lifted straight from the TV series Nashville (a show on which The Wind + The Wave had songwriting credits).
This record is one designed to be listened to from start to finish, it swells with positivity as quickly as it wrenches at your heart. Lead single Let’s Turn This Back Around is a raw look at a relationship that’s clinging on by its fingertips, with both singers questioning what changed and whether it can really be salvaged. Dwight’s fingerpicked guitar alongside the swirling strings sets the early tone for a song that transitions midway into a rousing number, full of hope and optimism. A masterfully crafed song that shows off the combined talents of the band at their finest.
Let’s Turn This Back Around flows perfectly into Gonna Find What’s Killing Me. Therein lies the storytelling feel of the album, almost like one protagonist has stepped away from the previous conversation for an introspective look at themselves. There’s something cinematic about the whole thing.
The Ride is a down-home, foot stomper that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Lukas Nelson or Drake White album. Kelly’s powerful, gravelly vocals take centre-stage while Patty lifts everything to a higher plain. The guitar solos make this rocker a sure-fire hit when the band play live throughout the summer.
One of the real beauties of this album is how you’re never left wanting something different. Whether it’s Kelly or Patty on lead, or shared vocals, the connection between the vocalists is so strong that you never feel the urge to skip track. It’d be so easy to focus on Kelly, after all, he’s got a huge fanbase to fall back on. However, quite rightly, Far From Saints is not Kelly Jones’ band, it’s a band with Kelly Jones in it and every part is required to make the whole.
As a listener, it can be difficult when a side project releases something so strong as you never know whether or not you’ll see them again. Do you devote yourself to this band? After all, The Wind + The Wave and Stereophonics aren’t going away any time soon. My advice on Far From Saints would be to enjoy them while they’re here as this is a special record. As Dwight said in our recent interview, “you don’t start talking about marriage and having babies on the first date”.
Far From Saints’ debut album is released on June 16th, and available from the usual outlets.
“Far From Saints” track listing
- Screaming Hallelujah
- Faded Black Tattoo
- Take It Through The Night
- Let’s Turn This Back Around
- Gonna Find What’s Killing Me
- The Ride
- We Won’t Get Out Alive
- No Fool Like An Old Fool
- Let The Light Shine Over You
- Own It