This blog has only existed for three weeks and I think I’ve written about these guys at least twice. It is the first album I’m super excited about in 2013. It has gotten a good deal of buzz due to their huge sound coming from humble R&B/country roots. And their story is beautiful – majestic songs coming from a place of suffering and redemption. Check out their pre-release promos on NYT and NPR
Now, the album:
Green Eyes and a heart of gold. First track and I’m hooked. Very anthemic. I’m trying to place exactly what vibes I’m getting… definitely a U2 feel, and maybe O.A.R. (their less rootsy later stuff). I totally expect to hear this song on the radio. It kind of makes my heart melt and gets my blood pressure up at the same time. Continuing on through the second track, a sprawling midnight-drive-worthy ballad, I notice WOW this music really makes me FEEL. It is not cerebral. It is warm, so warm. Love it.
Track 3 – Two Sides of Lonely – The one I know and already love. Exceptionally mournful and gorgeous. “Two sides of lonely / One is heart, one is duty / two sides of lonely / one’s in the grave and the other should be.” The subject matter is raw, about the near-death of his wife and the aftermath (she ultimately recovered). But honestly he could be singing about polka dots and posies and I would still scrunch my face and feel like I could get to that deep, soulful place he’s accessing.
#4 You Never Need Nobody – Total Elton John piano intro. I’m pretty sure it was Rocket Man. Or Daniel. Or Tiny Dancer. Then the lyrics came. Please, more of this. You could even slow it down a little more to squeeze every last drop out of those notes. And I must do some reading to find out if there is not actually a choir live for the recording. There has to be.
#5 You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional – Nice shout-out to Man of Constant Sorrow. At this point I did start to wonder if they picked the title of the song before they wrote it and then built the song around the title-saturated chorus. But then again I might be okay with that because the dynamics and explosive harmonies they throw in are so intense, you know they’re not just phoning it in.
#6 You Don’t Love Me Like you Used To – Has to be right out of a Shania Twain throw away (it was too good for Nashville). Whose Bed Have your Boots Been Under? has the same swagger but not the same inspiration or instrumentation.
As I get through tracks 7 and 8, I get the sense that this trio composes each song as a score. So many tracks have that majestic, orchestral quality. I would definitely listen to the Lone Bellow instrumental and imagine western vistas and endless night skies. Beautiful mandolin on “Fire Red Horse.” And like others have said, you definitely get a Mumford and Sons and Civil Wars feel throughout the album up to this point. “Bleeding Out” comes in as the “lone” yet-to-impress track on the album; it doesn’t quite gel, maybe trying to do accomplish too much, though it doesn’t want for intensity.
#9 – Looking for You – I am sure that this must have been cut from the Once soundtrack. And aha! THAT is the vibe I’ve been getting. Swell Season. All the way. Swell Season with a gospel choir and an occasional mandolin or banjo. That’s the Lone Bellow. And it really works. Really really works.
#10 Teach me to Know – This is my favorite one lyrically and rhythmically. I would love to hear a more prominent accordion. It’s there, but too subtle. Let the vocals blend with the accordion instead of washing over it.
#11 – The One You Should’ve Let Go – Definitely cool to close the album with a balls-out rocker.
9/10 overall. This one definitely lives up to its expectations. Check ’em out.