It’s always nice to see a band that you’ve been following for a long time start to get some much deserved love from the music industry. Zach Williams has been making music that speaks to me for the past 8 years and now, this week, his debut album with the latest (and I’d venture to say best) group around him has finally come out under the name of The Lone Bellow and it’s finally getting recognized for what it is, which is a fantastic album.
It took awhile for some wise music executive to get wind of the musicians that compose The Lone Bellow but now that it has actually happened, the result is astounding. Zach’s songs have lost none of their gripping authenticity that first drew me in, but they’ve added a layer of musicianship and polish that brings this self-titled debut to a whole new level.
The album kicks off with the song Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold, a powerful song with vocal harmonies blending together with a strong beat and intricate guitar work. It has the feel of deep Southern roots colored by time in the big city (which is the story of the band members so it’s appropriate) and it also showcases the main strengths of this album, namely a vibrant feel of soul from the vocals to the instruments to the lyrics.
From the driving push of Green Eyes the album moves to Tree to Grow, a slower ballad that resonates the same intensity as it grows into a climax that finishes with a quiet smoothness. Two Sides of Lonely picks up right there, quietly and subtlety drawing the listener in with the tones of Zach’s voice, a guitar, and a piano. As the rest of the band comes into the song, one is pulled along for an emotional ride through the poetry of the heart-felt lyrics.
And so goes the rest of the album. You Never Need Nobody (free on Amazon.com here) is another slower ballad punctuated by a strong backing chorus and a definite Southern Gospel feel. You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional (one of my all time favorites from Zach for awhile now) has quite the twang to it but in the scope of the entire album, it really fits. The country vibe carries over to You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To which features the amazing vocal talents of Kanene Pipkin at their best. Fire Red Horse is a more subdued song but no less intense, and then there is the iTunes Free Single of the Week, Bleeding Out, a whirlwind of a song that brings in all of the previous elements that I’ve previously talked about in the other songs.
Looking For You gives the listener a chance to catch their breath as it is a quiet respite that still resonates. The tempo of things begins to pick back up in earnest with Teach Me to Know and its chorus of “Carry the Weight”. There is such a strong sense of community in this song as handclaps and more voices join as the song progresses, finally pushing the end where everything else drops out and it’s just the voices and claps. And then comes the finale, I Am The One You Should Have Let Go. I confess that this is my favorite song that Zach’s ever done so I’m not sure that I can objectively review it but it has a little bit of a harder edge than the rest of the album, while still managing to retain the soul and feel that make the rest of the album so enjoyable. It’s The Lone Bellow at their best, intense and fun, soulful and playful, and altogether refreshing. The iTunes album also features the bonus track of Button, a jazzy tune that sounds like it was recorded in the roaring 20’s and just showcases the diversity and talent of this band.
If you’re still not convinced to run out and buy this album, you can take a listen over at NPR’s First Listen and hear this wondrous album for yourself. Or you can check them out on Conan O’Brien on Tuesday Jan 22, 2013, friend them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
The Lone Bellow is clearly the next step for this talented group of musicians. Their sound is familiar without being stale, comforting without being smothering, and original without being a duplication. It is an outstanding effort from start to finish and whether you’re familiar with Zach’s older stuff or not, you’ll definitely like this album.