Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Lone Bellow - The Lone Bellow (2013)

There are several similarities between New York City's up and coming band, The Lone Bellow, and last year's big sensation, The Lumineers.

Both bands are trios featuring two men and a woman and both play acoustic based folk-rock for adults.

But, the more meaningful connection between the two groups is that both were created out of tragic circumstances. The Lumineers' songwriter, Jeremiah Fraites, lost his brother to a drug overdose. Fraites then teamed up with his brother's best friend, Wesley Schultz, to write and play music as a way of coping with their loss. Then, with the addition of Neyla Pekarek they released their debut album featuring the recent huge hit single, "Ho Hey," that has already become a classic.

In the case of The Lone Bellow the wife of lead singer and songwriter Zach Williams suffered critical injuries in a horse riding accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down. Like Fraites, Williams also used songwriting as therapy while hoping for her recovery. Fortunately, she regained her full health.

Soon after, the couple left their Georgia roots behind and moved to Brooklyn, NY. There, Williams began playing and composing with an old friend, Brian Elmquist, and the seeds that would soon grow into The Lone Bellow were planted. Upon adding mandolin player and singer Kanene Dohehey Pipkin to their lineup the band was born.

These newcomers are capable of creating rousing sing-along vocal choruses and their debut CD's opening track, "Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold," grabs the listener immediately. The folk-blues of "You Never Need Nobody" is slower paced but is catchy nonetheless. "You Don't Love Me Like You Used To" and "The One You Should Have Let Go" showcase their ability to craft melodies that bore themselves deep into your soul.

Williams describes The Lone Bellow's music as "Brooklyn Country Music" and that's accurate. There are no cowboy hats, pickup trucks, no twang, and no backwoods sentimentality in their songs.

Much of the twelve song set has an acoustic foundation.  Williams plays acoustic guitar and Pipkin adds mandolin but Elmquist's lead guitar is usually "plugged in."  Their unofficial band member, bass player Jason Pipkin, alternates between acoustic standup bass on the ballads and the standard electric bass on the rockers.

Titles like "Bleeding Out" and "You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional" let the listener know that if these works really are country music there is nothing traditional about them.

The album was produced by Charlie Peacock who also handled the same duties for The Civil Wars' recent success, Barton Hollow.

At a concert in Bethlehem, PA on June 7, 2013 The Lone Bellow was polished but loose. They sounded like veterans who have been together for decades instead of an outfit that has only been around for about three years.

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