L is for The Lone Bellow

While I enjoy a variety of music genres, I’ve really been into this reemergence of the folk, bluegrass, Americana scene.  I first heard The Lone Bellow via a Youtube link posted by my friend on Facebook.  This video of “You Never Need Nobody,” in fact:

Intrigued, I watched some more videos of the trio — Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipkin — and quickly downloaded their self-titled first album.

What first drew me to The Lone Bellow was the passion and raw emotion made evident in their music.  When certain people sing, you can hear their soul in the sound of their voice.  Zach Williams is one of those people.  Because of this, and the excellent chemistry between the three vocalists, The Lone Bellow are fantastic live performers.  (I personally have yet to see them perform live, but by all accounts and the live recordings available online, this is known to be true.)

It was a bit of a let down then, when I heard their first album.  Don’t get me wrong — it is fantastic.  The music is great, and they sound great.  However, it all sounds a bit over-produced compared to their actual performances.  That’s not to say that it sounds like a pop record, rather, it just sounds too clean.  This is probably just a personal preference.  I guess I like the lo-fi, gritty sound of live recordings.  But after my initial qualms, the actual musicianship and songwriting won me over.  I may not like the feel of the record (if that makes sense), but as to the actual content, I have no complaints.

Their recently-released second album, “Then Came the Morning“, was produced by Aaron Dessner of The National.  While their first record was more or less a straightforward bluegrass sound, “Then Came the Morning” draws on other influences as well, such as gospel and rockabilly.

Where the first Lone Bellow record sounded too clean, “Then Came the Morning” is perfect.  It’s interesting, because overall, the second album has a much fuller sound with more complex instrumentation; but the production gives it a much more rootsy/organic feel than the first record which was primarily acoustic-based.

While I prefer the second album, both “The Lone Bellow” and “Then Came the Morning” contain incredible songs with magnificent performances by the trio.  I really hope I can catch these guys live some day.  I love their music, and am excited to see where they continue to go as they evolve as a band.

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