Kelly Jones’ vocals always have a raw honesty about them and never more so than on the Stereophonics 11th studio album, Kind. Recorded over an eleven-day period between 29 June and 9 July 2019 at The Distillery in Marlborough, Wiltshire, the album was produced, with the exception of one track, by Jones himself and George Drakoulias.
The recording sessions used minimal studio techniques, overdubs and technology and this stripped-back approach
provides a captivating snapshot of the Stereophonics at their emotional best. Jones’ distinct vocals reveal an extraordinary vulnerability and this album will surely be considered one of their finest.
Jones has already revealed that he was devoid of ideas following the band’s 2018 world tour and was questioning his future. It seems that a break from his band mates began to inspire those creative juices again and that has possibly led to the honesty with which Jones sings on this album. ‘Our last gig of the tour was September 2018,’ he said. ‘I was done, had written no songs, nothing new, I thought I felt like quitting for a while. Then, by November I had a load of songs that just came through me, lyrics just filling up pages, no crossings out, complete songs formed. They became a very open and, to be honest, a bunch of really vulnerable songs about things I hadn’t quite worked out for myself.’
The album begins with the pacey I Just Wanted The Goods, a full-on, hard-rocking track, but this is untypical of the rest of the album. Fly Like An Eagle is characteristic of Jones’ lyrical optimism with its message of striving to better oneself: ‘Wanna fly like an eagle / And dare to be reborn.’
Bust This Town, produced by Jones and Jim Lowe, is an anthem for living for the moment, for going with your instinct and never looking back. ‘A song about escapism,’ Jones explains. ‘Two lovers, or friends, or whoever you want to interpret them to be, finally find the courage to leave the small town they are stuck in and head on down the road, breaking all the rules along the way.’
The stripped back instrumentation, usually just an acoustic guitar, is a perfect canvass for Jones’ often pained vocal and there is no finer example than This Life Ain’t Easy (But It’s The One That We All Got). Jones looks inward towards his anxieties and isolation: ‘All the choices that I made / And the f**k ups that I face / All the minutes on my own / And the
loneliness I own’ – and his demons: ‘And this monkey on my back / Has been living here for years / I got to know him pretty well / Likes a-givin’ all my fears…’
This Life stops the listener in their tracks on first hearing, so profound are the lyrics. This just may be one of Jones’ finest ever songs and an anthem, no doubt, that will strike a chord and be relatable to so many.
With six of their previous ten albums topping the British albums chart, Stereophonics are a band woven into the fabric of popular music. With Kind Kelly Jones continues to cement his place amongst the great British songwriters with an ability to sketch and capture truth and beauty from everyday observations as well as delving into his own life experiences.