The Lone Bellow, ‘Then Came the Morning’ – Album Review
The Lone Bellow had their work cut out for them when tasked with following up their 2013 self-titled debut, a critically acclaimed album that earned the Brooklyn-based trio a spot on many year-end lists. ‘The Lone Bellow’ was the perfect introduction to the group’s brand of cinematic Americana.
With their sophomore effort, ‘Then Came the Morning,’ the Lone Bellow continue that conversation, but add a needed dynamism found in the stark honesty of their songwriting and nuanced arrangements that received a helping hand from producer (and the National guitarist) Aaron Dessner. Their newest album allows the band to step out of the pack of their alternative country peers.
The Lone Bellow pride themselves on bringing a sense of community to each of their songs – something that’s best demonstrated in their powerful three-part harmonies, but also emphasized by instrumentation that tends to carefully and diligently build to emotional crescendos. The trio – guitarists Zach Williams and Brian Elmquist and Kanene Donehey Pipkin on mandolin – somewhat amazingly manage to make every track soar more than the last on ‘Then Came the Morning,’ likely in part due to recording the LP at Dreamland Studios, a converted 19th century church in upstate New York. The space required the band to reach the absolute tops of their ranges – and apparently, often in just one take. Ultimately, it gives each track a striking urgency just when you think Williams, Elmquist and Pipkin couldn’t possibly push their limits any further.
It’s something that may be best exhibited on the anthemic ‘Take My Love,’ but it’s also heard on the gospel-tinged opening title track, which finds the Lone Bellow at a cross somewhere between Van Morrison and the Band.
While every song shows the trio’s ability to build momentum, they also show a versatility on ‘Then Came the Morning’ -- from the delicate, Pipkin-led ballad, ‘Call to War,’ to the rollicking call-and-response heard on ‘Heaven Don’t Call Me Home.’ The bluesy ‘Cold As It Is,’ however, is perhaps most exemplary of what the Lone Bellow really are: A trio of country powerhouses who can seamlessly blend their vocals into one unstoppable entity.