The Lone Bellow’s Self-Titled Debut

“The great thing about the Lone Bellow and their debut is that they really don’t live up to their name.” Find out what Cameron Barham means after the jump!

Cameron Barham
The Lone Bellow

out of 10

The Lone Bellow
The Lone Bellow
January 22, 2013
Descendant Records

Bel-low \bĕl’ō\: n. a loud deep sound, as of pain or anger

The great thing about The Lone Bellow and their debut is that they really don’t live up to their name. It is neither the work of a lone, singular artist nor does it resonate solely with the anguished emotions of hopeless pain and anger. The sum total is the result of the efforts of a wonderfully gifted community of artists and the support of its hopeful fan base through a Kickstarter campaign. The permeating ethos is ultimately one of hope and redemption despite the deep ache that echoes through a number of tracks.

The Lone Bellow is primarily comprised of Zach Williams, lead vocals, guitar, and primary songwriter, Kanene Pipkin, vocals and mandolin, Brian Elmquist, vocals and guitar. Williams, a Georgia native, has been around for a number of years as a singer-songwriter following the tragic-turned-miraculous neck injury his wife suffered after being thrown from a horse and spending a length of time in the hospital. He was known for his intensely emotional shows of which I was privileged to witness one at a small coffee shop in South Atlanta as part of the To Write Love on Her Arms tour a number of years ago. Pipkin and Williams were providentially brought together to sing at a wedding and discovered that they had something worth pursuing artistically. Elmquist, also a Georgia native, was a friend of Williams from college who pursued music in Nashville before becoming a part of a community of artists in Brooklyn, New York. There are a host of other folks that contribute their musical gifts on the various songs granting the album a wonderful setting to display the vocal interchange between Williams, Pipkin, and Elmquist. The music never seems to overpower the songs, which requires fidelity and wisdom when utilizing so many different musicians and elements. This is the genius of Charlie Peacock’s production work which allows the music to subtly settle in around and compliment the strengths of each member of the group with Williams vocal work most beautifully on display. Think the soulful Caucasian male counterpart to Brittany Howard from the Alabama Shakes. Check out this video for “Two Sides of Lonely” as an example.

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The album wastes no time getting started with “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold,” a celebratory commitment to communal life in New York despite the material challenges, that features all three vocalists in harmony and a sweeping musical soundscape that carries the listener along.

The next five tracks provide a series of painfully vulnerable but beautifully captured snapshots from deeply traversed relational terrain. “Tree to Grow” begins gently and simply only to gain in strength with each pass before exploding into the crescendo in which Williams declares: “I’ll never leave, I’ll always stay, I swear on all that I keep safe; But it gets harder and harder; But my love is older than my soul.” By contrast, “Two Sides of Lonely” captures the ache of a relationship that is painfully dying as a result of betrayal. Despite the sorrow, the vocals soar and intermingle so beautifully that you can’t help but believe that the graveyard doesn’t have the final say. “You Never Need Nobody” is a brilliant example of why this album doesn’t ultimately fit in the country category as it displays equal parts Gospel and soul in anthem-like form. Maybe that’s what the group means by describing it at as “Brooklyn Country.” The betrayal continues on “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional” as the song closes with “On the porch to your house, With this letter in hand, All your candles burned out, Oh, am I a good man, I watch you dance around in circles, With your new man in the glow, You can be all kinds of emotional. “You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To” is a standard country number that gives way to the gentle and longing “Fire Red Horse” and “Bleeding Out,” a declaration of the redemption that looms larger than all that is broken and failing.

On “Looking For You,” Williams collaborates with Matthew Perryman Jones, an amazing singer-songwriter from Nashville, to express the hurt and urgency of love lost and sought: “Slow regrets that live in the dark, I’ve written them down, but I know them by heart, I’ve counted the cost of this loneliness, I’ve paid for the crime and someday I’ll die, With you in my mind, I’m not letting you go again, Not letting this story end.” “Teach Me to Know” plays like a hymnic-psalm of prodigal sorrow that gives way to a chorus of hope: “Teach me to know my number of days, Hold out my heart from getting carried (away).” The Lone Bellow’s debut closes with the driving “The One Should’ve Let Go” once again displaying the harmonious interplay of vocals that sets this band apart.

The Lone Bellow with a little help from their friends and fans set the bar high with their debut. They will be on the Heavy and Light Tour which makes a stop in Atlanta on February 16th.

-Cameron Barham, January 21, 2013