I have confessed a profound love for emotional lyrics, passionate harmonies, group sing-alongs, and soulful folk music on several occasions here on the LA Music Blog. I have fallen in love with band after band, but my blossoming relationship with the supremely talented The Lone Bellow is undoubtedly one for the books. The openly heartfelt, perfected music showcased on their self-titled debut knocks me off my feet, and although it’s still early in the year, I’m already calling the album one of the best releases of 2013.
The Lone Bellow previously toured with The Civil Wars (rest in peace), which caught the attention of producer Charlie Peacock, who assisted in recording this impressive debut. Everyone from The New York Times to NPR is now praising this Brooklyn-based trio for their captivating release, The Lone Bellow. The group has fused together elements of folk, indie, and Southern gospel to create something astonishingly beautiful, a fusion of powerful, moving music.
With a thunderous folk backbeat akin to the music of international sensation Mumford & Sons and Americana favorites The Lumineers, The Lone Bellow opens with the rousing “Green Eyes and a Heart Of Gold.” The trio sounds like an army with this anthematic tune that swells in all the right places. Every friend of mine who had listened to this track (oh yes, I pulled the, “You gotta hear this band, just listen to this one song,” card) began humming the chorus immediately after the song’s completion.
The hooks on this album are so solidly infectious you can’t help but echo them. The slower yet equally emotionally affecting “You Never Need Nobody” is just as catchy and has been making the rounds across the spectrum, from underground radio to a performance during The Lone Bellow’s television debut on Conan this week.
Lead singer Zach Williams crafts songs with melancholy undertones in a way that communicates resolution and tenacity. That inherent hope is rooted in William’s life experiences; in 2005 his wife, Stacy, broke her neck in a horseback-riding accident shortly after their marriage and was temporarily paralyzed. After emerging from hardship stronger and more determined than ever, Williams crafted these soulful songs that have strong undercurrents of faith.
There are hints of Glen Hansard in Williams’ voice as the emotion behind his words hits you track after track. On songs like “The One You Should’ve Let Go,” the group croons lyrics such as, “I’m not the one you’re looking for, I’m not the shoulder you should cry on,” in such an enthusiastic and upbeat way that I can’t help but sing along.
I sang in an a’cappella group in college with Kanene Pipkin, The Lone Bellow’s female vocalist and mandolin player, and her smoky harmonies add another entrancing layer to the group’s tracks, particularly those that focus on relationships, such as the heartrending “Two Sides of Lonely” and the happy “You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To.” Guitarist Brian Elmquist, a longtime college friend of Williams’, rounds out the trio and clearly understands the emotional soul behind each song.
With a major label backing this release (the band is signed to Descendant Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment) and widespread critical acclaim, it’s safe to say The Lone Bellow is here to stay. With infectious melodies, soulful harmonies, and themes that pull on your heartstrings while making you clap and sing along, it’s also a good bet that The Lone Bellow will be on constant rotation for folk and country fans alike this year.
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