Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
The Lone Bellow was the third act on a five-band bill headlined by Jon Foreman on the TWOLA Heavy and Light tour.
In no way could that have been based on what's been going on with the Brooklyn-based trio lately because if it was, they probably could have most deservedly spent their time better headlining a smaller club.
These are heady times for lead singer/acoustic guitarist Zach Williams, fellow vocalist and mandolinist Kanene Pipkin and electric guitarist/vocalist Brian Elmquist. Quite simply, the buzz has been building quickly.
A lengthy feature in the New York Times certainly helped the band, which mixes acoustic music, country and a bit of a soulful/gospel sound (maybe call them Americana-based these days, and it's okay to put them in the mix with Mumford & Sons as well. They've self-titled "Brooklyn country music"). Conan put them on his show.
Yet to have even formally launched any sort of real tour (that will happen in March, but, alas, they're going to be opening for Ivan and Alyosha of Seattle), The Lone Bellow are starting to turn heads.
If their set - clocking in at less than 40 minutes for 7 songs - was any indication at all, a lot more heads will be revolving in extremely short order.
The songs - and they were very well-written - typically started on the softer side before launching into a fast-paced emotionally delivered (not over the top) vocals before perhaps toning it down. On more than one song, the action stopped before the band finished off the song.
The Mumford connection is an apt one in mixing an acoustic sound with a fast-paced, energy that has a rock element to it. But that is not an end point. Having Pipkin aboard, playing a prominent role vocally with an ever present mandolin gives a different face to the sound.
The lead-off song on the band's self-titled debut, which came out in January, Green Eyes And a Heart of Gold, mixes the best elements of what made The Lone Bellow so good. Sounding a tad like Bono, Williams pushed the song vocally, while Elmquist and Pipkin hit hard on the backing vocals with mandolin firmly in place. Elmquist also peppered the song with his electric guitar. Plus the song was catchy.
While The Lone Bellow is a trio, the upright bassist Jason Pipkin (Kanene's husband) helped provide the songs with backbone with all four turning the songs into a frenzy on many occasions. Williams and especially Elmquist, who added subtle guitar lines to the songs, had the sweat on their shirts and face to show for it.
When the crowd for the show put on by the To Write Love on Her Arms non-profit group walked in, there were a few in the crowd who clearly indicated they were onto The Lone Bellow. It didn't take very long for the rest of the 800-plus crowd to get in line.
Williams helped by getting the crowd to sing along (to his credit, he did not need to be the head cheerleader and pander to the crowd to do so).
At times, as in the closing Teach Me to Know, he came off as a musical conductor, using his hands to tell the crowd when to sing or not. In a way, that should not be surprising because he was a worship pastor in a Brooklyn church until the past few weeks. Williams never came across as being a control freak, egotistical or forcing the action. It made perfect sense and the crowd went with it, buying into what The Lone Bellow was about.
Put quite simply, the name The Lone Bellow is going to be a misnomer in short order - especially if they continue putting on shows like this.