Welcome to a new semi-series (we’ll see how it goes), Featured Folk. Music reviews and such, some new, some not. (I’ll spend the next few weeks catching up on 2012 releases. Then we’ll see.)
We’ll get into my loose definition of “folk” some other time. Today, we review The Lone Bellow‘s self-titled album that drops on the 22nd of this month (the 15th on iTunes). As a Kickstarter, this piece of perfection dropped into my inbox today. Way to get the weekend off right, guys.
A tiny bit of history might help this along – Zach Williams (frontman for the group) loves New York’s legendary Rockwood Music Hall so much that he decided to turn it into a recording studio. That in itself makes this album worth a listen. (And this video worth a watch.) If you already knew this tidbit, the opening track, “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” (and other gems like “You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To”), sound just like you’d expect. Like a Friday night of Americana in your favorite spot. Bar’s in the back.
What may surprise you, however, is the clear-as-a-bell-tunes that follow. “Tree to Grow” is one that you will immediately hit repeat on. The harmonies are out of control (and you know how I feel about that).
Also unexpected – for me anyway – is the epic tune that is “Bleeding Out”. I did not expect this full, rowdy-ish corale that anchors the second half of this album. A side-two keeper, for sure.
And finally, you can’t get better than the heartbreakingly yearning of the pair of penultimate songs, “Looking for You” and “Teach Me to Know”. Maybe I’m biased to the latter because I watched the video linked above an embarrassing number of times to hold me over until the album release. Maybe. But this pair begins with a lullaby and ends with the freaking catchiest hook I’ve heard in a long time.
So, at times both gentle and raucous, The Lone Bellow’s self-titled release leaves us most with a feeling of longing, apropos for a band made out of New Yorkers with their roots in the fertile soil of the South. We turn the album off with a feeling akin to taking a short trip home, long hours and roads that will now lead us further and further away.