Album Review: Kenny Chesney’s Songs for the Saints

Kenny Chesney’s Songs for the Saints (out Friday, July 27)  is a love letter to the Virgin Islands following the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year. The stripped down and introspective 11 track-album features Chesney’s familiar vocals but with added emotion as he sings about the destruction of his second home. The album also serves as a fundraiser for the Virgin Islands, with all proceeds going directly to Chesney’s Love for Love City Fund to aid in recovery and restoration.

“This brokenness will heal / This weakness will be strong / Let’s lift our voice together as the Saints go marching on,” he sings on the opening track “Song for the Saints.” Penned while storms were impacting the area, Chesney says he wrote the title track thinking about the spirit of the people of the Virgin Islands.

Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney; Cover art courtesy Essential Broadcast Media

Later, on the Ziggy Marley assisted “Love for Love City,” Chesney continues to lift the listener up with a distinct reggae vibe, soaring steel drums, and his laid-back vocals. “My healer, my heaven, my home / The day that I found you, my burdens were gone / Sure as you give your gift of freedom / Let us give gifts back now that you need them,” Chesney and Marley croon on the track. Chesney wrote “Love for Love City” two days after the storm blew through the island and the song serves as a reflection of the love he has for the area and the easygoing lifestyle he witnessed for the past two decades while living there.

Throughout Songs for the Saints, a distinct resilience is showcased within the lyrics and Chesney’s booming vocals. The atmospheric cover of Lord Huron’s “Ends of the Earth” will no doubt serve as a welcomed addition to Chesney’s live show with sweeping and ethereal instrumentation. “What good is living this life you’ve been given / If all you do is stand in one place,” Chesney reflects.

Chesney wrote five of the album’s 11 tracks and the impact the islands have had on him is evident within each song’s heartfelt and vivid lyrics. Highlights include the nostalgic mandolin-infused “Pirate Song,” the feel-good “We’re All Here” and the soaring “Island Rain.” One of the few songs with electric guitar, on “Island Rain” a musical interlude towards the song’s end gives the track the feel of an impromptu jam session with added steel drums.

The reflective “Better Boat” closes Songs for the Saints and features Americana singer Mindy Smith. With memorable harmonies between the two singers set alongside a tale of moving on following unforeseen obstacles in life, the song leaves its mark on the listener.

While Songs for the Saints is a departure from the radio-friendly hits Chesney has had over the years, it is a reflection on the singer as a person as he struggles to make sense of the devastation witnessed in the Virgin Islands. As he sings fondly of the island that helped him turn into the man he is today, the impact is evident throughout each song’s descriptive lyrics and the emotion embodied in every note. While he wasn’t there when the storms ravaged through the area, the singer promises to help rebuild as best as he can and with Songs for the Saints he follows through on his pledge while bringing awareness for his beloved Virgin Islands.