Stone Foundation – ‘Keep On, Keepin On’

Written by Chris Clark
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Do we ever arrive? Does the train, one day hit the buffers, and if so, what do we do once it has?
If you think about your life, your family, your work, are any of us at point where we can say ‘Do you know what, that’s me. I’ve learnt all I need to know, I’ve been everywhere I need to go, I’ve done everything I need to do. I’m done! Stick me in a brass nameplated box and make me an appointment to meet my maker because, you know what, I’m at saturation point!

The purpose of this beautiful thing called life is to keep moving, keep growing, keep striving to do better, be better, get better, onwards and upwards as a better man than me once said. You must roll with the punches, and when the hardest ones’ land, drag your arse back up, take another hit and move on. It is of course, all very easy to say this, even easier to write it down for that matter. For many of us though, me included, there comes a time when realism puts its size ten boot through your dreams and no matter how much you believe, you’re never gonna play up front for Man Utd and score the winning goal in the Cup Final.

It’s not because you didn’t believe, you did, with all your heart. You went to bed every night until you were 35 hoping Alex Ferguson was going to bob down to the local wreck and spot you. It’s because belief is not always enough, you need talent and discipline. That’s why when you see success come to those who have the talent, the discipline, the belief and refusal to give up despite playing gigs to three men and their flat pints on a cold Tuesday night, it reaffirms your faith in the power of dreams…. And makes you dig the boots out, again.

Paying you dues is both a truism and a cliché. Yet without doing so you build a house of straw, nothing of substance, all fur coat and no knickers. Stone Foundations make a perfect bed on which to build a solid bond. Plying their trade in the lower divisions Stone Foundation grafted through the shit and the aches and pains night after night, searching for a break, a leg up, a chance. Coming together through a shared love of classic soul, mod staples and hip hop, the two Neil’s (Sheasby & Jones) found each other in the late-nineties. A debut album ‘In Our Time’ was released in 2005, followed by 2008’s ‘Small Town Soul’.

A request from a Northern Soul promoter to provide backing for veteran lead singer of Detroit harmony group the Professionals, Steve Calloway lead to a collaboration with the Northern Soul legend Nolan Porter on 2010’s ‘Away from the Grain’. 2011, saw the release of 3 shades of Stone Foundation a compilation of the previous three albums. Shifting line ups settled around the time of ‘Away from the Grain’ and a simple twist of fate, brought them to the attention of The Specials drummer John Bradbury, in attendance at their Fiddler Elbow’s gig in Camden one night. This in turn resulted in a support slot on The Specials 2011 arena tour. A lucky break?

The Roman philosopher Seneca is reported to have stated that ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’. After 3 albums and a ‘Best of’ in 6 years, constant gigging and belligerently working away at their craft with total belief, Stone Foundation were fully prepared to seize their opportunity when presented with it. The Specials support slot led to tours with Dr Robert & The Blow Monkeys, fellow Midlander’s, The Selector & The Beat and the Nutty Boys, Madness. Two visits to Japan during 2014 one sponsored by the British Embassy in Tokyo’s ‘Visit Britain’ team another to play the Fuji Rocks Festival, we’re followed by the release of the new LP ‘Find the Spirit’. The new album forced its way into the UK top 75 and continued the collaboration, guest appearance theme. Nolan Porter features on the sweet soul vibes of ‘Bring Back the Happiness’ and ‘Crazy Love’. Ex Young Disciple Carleen Anderson contributes to ‘When You’re in My World’. Andy Fairweather-Low of Mod-Pop outfit Amen Corner features on ‘Hold On’ while Mod scribe Paolo Hewitt riffs on the spoken word track ‘Child of Wonder’.

A horn infused 7-piece rock soul sound, blowing hard from the Midlands, Stone Foundation unsurprisingly get tagged with Dexys comparisons, it’s inevitable. And wearing your influences so proudly on your sleeve can sometimes pigeon-hole lesser bands to a time and place. However, with the band restless, relentless and refusing to come up for air, 2015 saw the release of the positively titled and aspirational ‘A Life Unlimited’. Beneath their well shod feet, the ground had shifted, the new album brought favourable reviews along with nods & winks from the great and good of music, including a certain Paul Weller. Apparently, the band had been on his radar after being tipped off by a mutual friend. Steve Craddock, guitarist on the Specials tour??? Just a guess.

And so, to the present. An out of the blue call from the Modfather himself initially regarding working with him on a track or two of his own, resulted in a new Stone Foundation LP. Weller who contributed to several of the songs, produced the album too! Imagine, it’s like Sir Alex Ferguson bobbed down the Red Wreck, offered you trail, only to see your promise, give you the No10 shirt and a start on Saturday at home to City. What, in those situations do you do, do you doubt, freeze, shrink? Or do you take stock, realise you wouldn’t be here if you were shit and score a hatrick? In Stone Foundation’s case the latter. ‘Street Rituals’ was released earlier this year to palpable acclaim.

The album has a feel of maturity, of an arrival. It coalesces the bands influences weaving between classic soul, new soul, jazz inflections, the social commentary of Curtis, the mellifluous magic of Marvin. As well as the Modfather’s considerable input, the collaborations keep coming, Southern Soul legend William Bell, features on the Stax inspired ‘Strange People’ with the motor city Soul Queen Bettye Lavette making ‘Season of Change’ her own. The lyrics address the consistent and cyclical issues of a complicated and unforgiving world from a perspective of peace, love, understanding and hope.

Whilst maintaining and continuing to reference the classic 60’s, 70’s soul of Stax, Sly Stone, The Impressions, etc, Stone Foundation are no revivalists more lets’ go, than retro. Since their inception, as is the want with men of modernist persuasions, the band has continually desired to progress, develop and expand their sound. After 20 years of sweat and toil, the Stone Foundation balloon is rising, this could just be the start of something.

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Read 5906 times Last modified on Tuesday, 08 August 2017 19:33
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Chris Clark

Chris Clark

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