The Lone Bellow came to my attention through an unusual convergence of sources. Let’s put them in radio station terms: the very-WBUL Eric Church concert, which The Lone Bellow is opening, that was recently announced for May 7 at Rupp Arena and the WEKU/WUKY associated nprmusic.org, where the band’s new album was previewed on its “First Listen” page.
As usual, NPR Music was pointing us toward something good, and it is a wonderful The Lone Bellow will have a forum like Church’s tour to share its beautiful and engaging sound.
The group was in part born of Zach Williams’ journals he was keeping, particularly as his wife was recovering from a horseback riding accident. A friend encouraged him to put the journals to music, and after some solo projects, he joined voices with equally talented musicians Brian Elmquist and Kanene Pipkin.
“It’s a beautiful thing to be able to sing honest songs with real friends,” Williams said to NPR.
And those are the hallmarks of this band, which released its second album, Then Came the Morning, Tuesday: beautifully woven harmonies and songs so personal, sometimes you wonder if you should be listening.
Among those are Marietta, a song about betrayal and resolution, and If You Don’t Love Me. Then there is gospel fervor of the title song, about emerging from pain, and the barn-burner Heaven Don’t Call Me Home, which you can add to the list of great songs about Georgia.
When Williams and Pipkin’s voices unite, there is an unmistakable echo of The Civil Wars, which sort of makes sense, considering the Bellow’s self-titled debut was helmed by CW producer Charlie Peacock. But under the guidance of The National’s Aaron Dessner for this follow-up, the bellow seem to have found something even more grounded and unvarnished. The Lone Bellow is more rooted than a lot of what passes for country music today — seriously, listen to this and then tell me what it is you get out of bro country — and if they can be part of bringing the worlds of country and Americana together, that’s a good thing.