Slow-burning folk rock and time-steeled lyrical contentment shape the 10 tracks of Warm Soul Shine, the fourth album by Raleigh's Milagro Saints. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as the Raleigh staple has long built its peaceful, aging-into-wisdom reflections above suiting beds of polished rusticity, redolent of its '70s Laurel Canyon progenitors coming home to roost. Warm Soul Shine is the band's most self-assured platter yet, though, with S.D. Ineson's aphorism-rich songwriting and patient melodies bolstered by the capable playing of a strong supporting cast.
Two of Milagro Saints' three co-founders spent their formative years working with New York bands like the Talking Heads and The Ramones or recording with the sardonic, almost-famous indie act The Jack Rubies. Those careers didn't make them famous, though, and the downtown artists in question—vocalist Ineson and multi-instrumentalist Joyce Bowden—eventually began exploring Americana with keyboardist Lee Kirby. A move to North Carolina and a short-lived deal with Whiskeytown imprint Mood Food followed. But however well-rendered those old tunes and the new ones on Warm Soul Shine might be, their familiar roots drift doesn't sound like a band making a second run at fame. It's the young fool's game, right? Rather, they're outlets of Zen and contentment, often-cheerful elixirs of affirmation about appreciating what you've been given while accepting the madness of the surrounding world.
Cutting a row between Cat Stevens' robust jangle and Robert Hunter's metaphor-laden words, Warm Soul Shine meets its audience in the middle, life experiences distilled into advice and encouragement, all splashed over bright hooks. Pedal steel, piano and the occasional fiddle wash against a steady rhythm section, tempered acoustic guitars generally the ballast of it all. "Chances are, you've got everything you need," sings Ineson during the move-with-the-wind gem "Chances Are," harmonizing with drummer Eduardo Root over subdued organ peals and F.J. Ventre's intricate bass. "Never accept anything beyond this bliss—of being alive." Ineson understates almost all of his lyrics, giving the band space to shape the mood around them. But on that last bit—"of being alive"—he finally lets loose, belting the line, singing in celebration. From someone who still seems inspired to find himself surrounded by a band this competent, it's a fitting, subtly poignant idea.
Milagro Saints play Bynum General Store Friday, June 12, at 7 p.m. Donation requested.