Unifier In The Belly: Idealistic Folkers Stone Poets Seek To Bridge “The Great Divide”

Factions on the left, factions on the right … sometimes it seems as if the only thing we as a people can agree on anymore is to disagree. Loudly.

British-Colombian folk/pop/roots act Stone Poets see the problem, and they refuse to be cowed by it. Lifting their voices in harmony to preach the virtues of… well, harmony, the trio of Cherelle Jardine, Scott Jackson and Marc Gladstone makes a soft-spoken yet impassioned plea for lowering the cultural temperature on “The Great Divide,” the first single from their new album, HUM∀N.

“Why oh why, can’t we see eye to eye,” the yearning lyric implores, surveying a sad landscape in which hurtful words fly out like bullets from behind walls of self-protection that “block out the sun.” All the while, the gentle flow of the chords and melody points our way toward a paradise where none of this has to be:

I know a place where there ain’t no sides
It’s right in the middle of the great divide

“Humans are becoming increasingly divided into opposing groups,” the band observes. “These divisions are becoming more and more entrenched in society. It’s very disheartening.”
That awareness, they say, determined the thrust of not just the song, but the entire new album: “We know how powerful music is, and we felt compelled to write songs that would bring people together, spread peace and love, unite hearts and combat hate, one listener at a time.”

It’s a pretty tall order of course, but in trying to fill it, the band is stepping into a sturdy tradition. While they say their ultimate artistic goal is to transcend categorization, you can trace a direct line from a song like “The Great Divide” back to classic idealistic protest folk like the Peter, Paul and Mary songbook and “One Tin Soldier.” Those echoes of the past reverberate in every aspect of the new single, from the lyrical point of view to the way the trio’s voices mesh so gorgeously on the choruses. (The degree to which they all shine individually on the verses is pretty nifty too.)

Stone Poets had originally traveled to Nashville to co-write “The Great Divide” with expat Canadian hitmakers Daryl and LeeAnn Burgess. Though LeeAnn has since passed away, she got to hear the finished track while she was still with us, and gave her blessing to its production quality, performances, and vocal arrangements. Need any more explanation why this crew is newly fixated on how much in life is really worth fighting over?

HUM∀N numbers a hefty 17 such songs of “hope, love and humanity,” ranging from pop tunes and soulful ballads to an instrumental piano piece by Gladstone and Jackson’s spoken word take on William Blake’s “A Poison Tree.” Also included is the previously released single “Gleam and Beam,” which marvels at the capacity for emotional intelligence a mother’s adoring gaze unlocks in a newborn.

The album was co-produced by longtime Stone Poets collaborator Sheldon Zaharko and recorded at Zed Productions, HippoSonic Studios, Monarch Studios and Grassy Knoll Studio. Additional instrumentation was supplied by Vancouver studio aces and firm friends of the band Jerry Wong, Nick Haggar, Liam MacDonald, Jeremy Holmes, Jordan Aranas, Geeta Das and Joe Alvaro.

It’s the Poets’ fifth recorded release since coming together in 2011 as a sort of regional supergroup built on the momentum of previous bands and solo projects. They’ve since forged a warm and intimate connection with their fans, through both the quality of their music and the between-songs storytelling they’ve discovered to be a crucial element of their live shows. Everything about HUM∀N —from the music to the packaging that’s festooned with images of homosapien DNA—broadcasts the band’s intention to deepen that performer/fan relationship and extend it to new converts as well. For everybody’s sake.

“It’s time to get the message out to the world,” the group says. “Peace movements are hard to start, but we believe once they start rolling, there’s no stopping them!”