Not Confined to a Box
The Lone Bellow–trio Zach Williams, Kanene Donehey Pipkin and Brian Elmquist–put out a solid second album with Then Came the Morning, with genre-bending tracks, a distinct sound and varied emotional palette. Billed as a country group, The Lone Bellow doesn’t just limit themselves to a single genre, instead, infusing their tracks with a little country, rock, folk, or soul.
Voice is the focal point across this entire album, and rightly so. While the instrumentals have some prominence, they primarily support what’s happening vocally. On “Then Came the Morning,” some horns are in the mix with guitar and drums, but they seamlessly add bulk to the band’s musical push from one phrase into the next. It’s the combination of Williams and Pipkin’s doubled voices in the chorus and meatier climax sections of the track that captivate the ear; the instruments rise up to create a pedestal for those voices to sit on. The result is a track with excellent phrasing for maximum impact with quite a bit of soul.
The doubling of male/female voices lends The Lone Bellow a very distinct sound–the layering of voices, richness of the guitars and a straight ahead approach to the drums. Yet, the sonorous similarities between tracks don’t really get old. They keep things fresh enough. Even in a stripped down tune like “Watch Over Us” with only acoustic guitar and vocals, The Lone Bellow’s sound would be unmistakable with the doubled voice in the chorus. But, the emotional palette and overall musical aesthetic couldn’t be more distinct from other tracks. At the same time, it might be nice to hear a little more variation, as almost every song features Williams and Pipkin singing double, despite each of them having the vocal chops to do more.
In addition, tempo and emotional pull don’t always mean the same thing here, which is refreshing. A slower jam in a triple meter on “Diners” has a kind of exuberant, soulful call out to the world. This is not to say uptempo tunes like “Heaven Don’t Call Me Home” don’t inspire rollicking movement as their driving drum and guitars suggest. Or, darker tracks like “Fake Roses” combine rock/country with a lonely crooner and poetic lyrics: “It’s a low and lonesome song / When the wind sweeps through the pine / She just turns the TV on / Puts her mind on better times.”
Then Came the Morning is rich, cathartic music, thanks to great male/female voices, fused genres, and solid musicality. Though, at times, the album could use a little extra diversity in sound, overall The Lone Bellow’s latest musical contribution is accessible and enjoyable listening.