Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Lone Bellow at the Bowery Ballroom

Zack Williams
The Lone Bellow is lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter Zach Williams from Woodstock, Georgia, along with singer-guitarist Brian Elmquist of Sandersville, Georgia, and singer and mandolin player Kanene Pipkin from Fredricksburg, Virginia. The Lone Bellow is from Brooklyn, New York, however. Williams began writing songs after his wife suffered temporary paralysis following a horseback riding accident and following her recovery, the couple moved to New York City where he began performing the folk circuit. He reconnected with an old friend, Elmquist, who had been writing and recording as a solo artist in New York, with three albums under his own name. Pipkin and her husband relocated to New York to attend culinary school after hosting open mic nights, playing at local clubs and teaching music lessons in Beijing, China. Williams, Elmquist and Pipkin bonded, and after hitting those first harmonies they abandoned all other pursuits. Initially known as Zach Williams & the Bellow, the band shortened its name to the Lone Bellow and gained traction at the Rockwood Music Hall. The Lone Bellow released its second album, Then Came the Morning, in 2015. In 2016, the band members relocated to Nashville, Tennessee.

The Lone Bellow headlined three nights at the Bowery Ballroom, ending on New Year's Eve. For a group that initially spun its axis on lean three-part vocal harmonies in small folk clubs, the music has grown quite meaty and easily filled the ballroom. While the lyrics retained their charmingly honest and homespun integrity, the projection was now more driving and bombastic; subtleties were diminished for most of the set, yet the sincerity of the sensitive singer-songwriters was kept in focus. Now more rock than Americana, the Lone Bellow sounded like Crosby, Stills & Nash met Red Wanting Blue and Lake Street Dive. Twangy guitars and mandolin kept the country flavor fully alive, however. Williams' husky lead vocals commanded attention with their near-gospel fervor, blending charmingly with the lighter, crisper harmonies contributed by Elmquist and Pipkin. The chemistry was genuine and infectious, such that much of the audience preferred to sing along rather than listen. Look for the Lone Bellow to headline much larger venues in 2017.

Visit the Lone Bellow at