Reviewed by Roger Sharman
Saints Eleven return on March 27th with a new EP entitled ‘This Town’ out on their own label, just like the previous releases.
The guys, hailing from the DFW (Dallas -Fort Worth) region of Texas make the kind of music that oozes energy, whether they be laying down a southern rock jam or a country song, and these guys can do both with consummate ease.
Saint’s Eleven have been on my radar since 2017’s release ‘Coming Back Around’ which in turn led me to 2013’s ‘I’ll Be Fine’ and subsequently to 2015’s, ‘I Told You’, which in my opinion is their finest release to date.
Last year they attained critical recognition when they were named the Texas Country Music Association’s Country Music Band of the year 2019 award, which is no mean feat for a band who really err more on the side of being southern rockers or a rock band that uses country elements, than being a country band. Rest assured however, there is no identity crisis with this, they know exactly where they’ve come from and exactly where they are headed.
Certainly, this latest release sees Saints Eleven moving away from that country band label, this is far and away their most organic release so far. When these guys want to rock, they rock, big time. But they can do the quieter, tender moments with just as much aplomb. This record really is the very essence of who Saints Eleven are. It’s a piece of each members heart. “This Town” is the real Saints Eleven.
Their style and sound comes from each band member’s influences. Everybody plays their instrument in the vein of the music they grew up listening to, they all love good music in all its glorious genres. While most bands try to describe their sound with clever phrasing and trending catch words, Saints Eleven founder and frontman Grossman, ever the realist, simply states, “Truth is we’re just four rock and roll guys out of the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex playing country music.” And that is just what this new EP is, a half breed creation born to one side rock and one side country.
‘My Home Is’ starts off the proceedings. It’s a Highway song, about being away from home and family and getting back to loved ones, specifically being away from a young son and the desire to make up for being away for much of the son’s formative years. It’s a good old Honky Tonker with some outstanding pedal steel throughout the track.
The pace drops for track two, ‘Love in Hell’. It’s the story of love gone wrong, and trying to make up for infidelity. If you close your eyes you can feel the angst, the raw emotion of Jeff’s vocal is apparent for all which weaves a beautiful tapestry with that weeping pedal steel.
The title track, ‘This Town’ starts off pretty quietly with an acoustic riff reminiscent of The Allman Brothers band’s ‘Jessica’ and builds into an anthemic style chorus with a full on southern rock riff. I’ve long been a fan of songs that have dramatic shifts in tempo, although that’s something that I feel is not used as much as it should in country music, but is certainly a lot more prevalent in rock. The bipolar aspect of Saints Eleven comes in loud and clear on this track. The perfect mood swing between country and rock has never been more palpable than in this finger in the air salute to old wounds.
‘The Crown’ eases us in with some pretty awesome slide guitar, some keyboards, and Jeff’s snarling vocals. Yet it kind of meanders through, it doesn’t go anywhere, its crying out for a big solo of some description, and I’ve not yet identified a tricky bridge. In my opinion there could have been a lot more done with this track, it seems to want to remain somewhat comfortably in the middle of the record, almost as if it wants to retain some anonymity.
The same cannot be said for ‘Let Us Be’. Instantly there is more purpose behind this track. It packs a real solid punch. It’s got attitude, a full on rock riff that’s come straight out of a Led Zeppelin song book. This is how rock music is supposed to sound in the gospel according to Page.
‘A Song for Smiley’; rounds off the E.P in a slightly different vein to the rest of the record. It’s got more of a country vibe to it than all the other tracks put together, almost as if to prove my opening statement. Lyrically for me this is the strongest track, the message contained within it is something that we can all relate too. It’s a suitable way to round off a very good collection of songs.
Whilst it probably isn’t as strong a record as ‘I Told You’, if I’m being totally honest, its still a well written collection of songs showcasing the undoubted talents of the band, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen, one which will please the fans and capture some new ones. It’s certainly worth a listen if you are not familiar with the band already.