Album: Then Came the Morning
Artist: The Lone Bellow
About: 13 songs; 45 Minutes
Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation
I chose The Lone Bellow’s new album, Then Came the Morning as our album of the week because I knew I had some Lone Bellow in my collection, I thought I liked them, but I couldn’t really remember what they sounded like. From their website, they state that their sound “mixes folk sincerity, gospel fervor, even heavy metal thunder, but the heart of the band is harmony: three voices united in a lone bellow.” I can go along with that, but I am not sure that it helped me define this band. That description of themselves set them up for DJR Blogging to go to town on them in a pretty harsh fashion. Personally, I think they would have gotten better treatment if they hadn’t included a song that rhymed hell you ride with Telluride. That really got his goat!
The album has the format that I like best. Lots of 3 minute songs that comes in at about 45 minutes of listening. I tend to have a good feel at the end of those 45 minutes as to what a band is about. After listening to their new album for two weeks, I understand that the Lone Bellow members are fantastic at mixing their voices in harmonies. That’s about it.
This album has so many different flavors. A descriptor that comes up often in write-ups about them is “Brooklyn country.” There is that Mumford/Lumineers/Edward Sharpe-iness to them on several cuts, but there are songs that you would totally feel were straight out of the church missive, or a down home honky tonk collection. As an example of the former, there is the lovely, Watch Over Us. It is a beautiful hymn that highlights how well the three members of this band can meld their sounds as if in a unison prayer.
Sometimes I’m up
Sometimes I’m down
Sometimes I’m almost
Leveled to the ground
But my baby’s sleeping
Sleeping in peace
So watch over us
From there you can find yourself in more of a southern-rock, Drive By Truckers feel with the song, If You Don’t Love Me. Drum punches, cymbal crashes, and a bunch of bass. Or you can have a honky-tonk jive with Diner with the requisite coin in a jukebox motif. The album’s final song begins with just a guitar and solo voice. For me, there is a sound to this song that makes me picture it being sung around a Civil War campfire, but from the solo voice it moves into more of a honky tonk country band, harmonies. Here is an example of where I don’t even know what to feel about a single song, let alone the whole album!
My favorite of the album’s tracks is Marietta – one of the album’s ballads. The music is beautiful and their swelling sound works magically to make the remorse projected by the lyrics feel soul-crushing.
The worry of what couldn’t be,
the love for the lust of your name,
of losing, of winning, of striving, of leaving, of stealing
and breaking and shame,
of fighting and failing and lying and telling yourself
that you’re clean of the blame.
I let you in again, I let you in again,
you sleep with the lights on,
what you call your family are gone
I let you in again
and patiently wait for your storm.
The songs fronted by Kanene Pipkin, the woman in the trio, are an even different story. She has a throaty, beautiful voice with a little bit of a rasp. On Call to War you get a taste of that talent, but, for me, it fits in even less than some of the others.
My final thought on this album is that I am glad to have songs of the Lone Bellow in my collection, but I may still struggle in identifying them.
Next Up: New Orleans Brass Bands – Through the Streets of the City