“There are so many negative things going on in the world today that we thought: let’s do something positive, get back to basics and make a spiritually uplifting record like the old recordings by The Staple Singers,” effuses Stone Foundation’s singer, guitarist and harmonica player Neil Jones.
Bluesbreakers: Stone Foundation
Smalltown soul boys find the spirit on their fifth album.
Despite suffering from a head cold, Jones is eager to discuss his band’s new album, To Find The Spirit, which he feels is the start of a new chapter for the septet. “When we played [London’s] the 100 Club, everyone in the audience had big smiles on their faces and that gave us such a big thrill.”
The nucleus of Stone Foundation was formed back in 2004 by Jones and bassist Neil Sheasby, and after multiple changes, the line-up is completed by Hammond organist Ian Arnold, drummer Phillip K Ford, trombonist Spencer Hague, trumpeter Lynn Thompson and saxophonist/flautist Gary Rollins. “The seven of us now are like a family, we really have that ‘last gang in town’ mentality, we pull together – all for one, one for all,” Jones says.
The band were given a huge boost when The Specials’ drummer John Bradbury, who had seen them play at London pub The Fiddler’s Elbow, invited them to support The Specials on their 2011 arena tour.
“ It gave me that extra confidence that The Specials thought we were alright and it’s been amazing. [The Specials’ lead guitarist] Roddy Radiation jumped up and played guitar with us in Wolverhampton, Horace Panter [bassist] designed our album cover and Lynval Golding [rhythm guitarist] has been in touch to say how much he enjoyed the new record.”
To Find The Spirit is their fifth album and follow-up to 2011’s The Three Shades Of Stone Foundation. It was mainly recorded at their own studio in Warwickshire. “It used to be an old hosiery and we had to strip it and gut it. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to Royal Studios in Memphis and to Muscle Shoals Sound at 3614 Jackson Highway, and those places aren’t that different from ours. They are grubby little studios, but it’s all about the sound in the room.”
Guest vocalists include northern soul legend Nolan Porter and singer Carleen Anderson. The first sings on the gospel-infused Bring Back The Happiness and a smouldering cover of Van Morrison’s Crazy Love and, says Jones, “is a lovely guy and has got a great vocal range.” The latter, who duets with Jones on When You’re In My World, was recorded at Paul Weller’s Black Barn Studio in Surrey. “He let us have it for a couple of hours to record the song, as she couldn’t make it to the Midlands. As soon as she started singing it was like someone had sprinkled magic dust on the song – she’s an unbelievable vocalist. I’m so proud of what we’ve done.”
“Southern soul is a massive influence. Otis Redding’s Tell The Truth is an incredible album. Otis was like a man mountain. I also love Van Morrison’s St Dominic’s Preview. My dad used to play it and as a small boy I’d listen and think I’d love to make that sound.”
To Find The Spirit is out now via The Turning Point Recording Organisation.