The Lone Bellow

The Lone Bellow


The Lone Bellow return to Calvin College in support of their sophomore album titled Then Came the Morning. The country/folk trio made their debut with 2013’s self-titled album comprised of songs based off a journal lead songwriter Zach Williams kept when his wife was paralyzed from a horseback-riding accident. A strong reception among country and folk circles afforded the band the opportunity to open for folk staples such as The Avett Brothers and The Civil Wars. After two years of touring, it came time to record the next record.

The result of gained experience on the road touring with other bands resulted in 2015’s Then Came the Morning. Whereas their first album focused a lot on themes of surrounding struggle due to its source material, Then Came The Morning is not based on any one event, but still draws from the members’ own experiences. Though Then Came the Morning does not have as provocative a backstory as its predecessor, there is still plenty of power behinds its words, which explore relationships once again. The song “Marietta,” perhaps the most affecting in subject matter, says this,

You sleep with the lights on
What you call your family are gone
I let you in again
Patiently wait for your storm

By still drawing from their own experience, the members of The Lone Bellow create a collection of songs that explore relationships in an honest and earnest way, providing a way for the audience to connect in a more personal way.

The Brooklyn-based trio expands their musical scope considerably on Then Came the Morning. The album—produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner and also featuring horn and string arrangements from his brother Bryce—is still centered on the country and folk traditions of their debut, but adds an array of other roots music influences as well. The 13 songs take inspiration from Motown soul (“Then Came the Morning,” and “Diners”), gospel (I Let You Go) and 1950’s rock and roll (Heaven Don’t Call Me Home). By combining these inspirations with Dessners’ production and arrangements, The Lone Bellow builds on the strengths of their first album while taking their sound to the next level.

- Jordan Petersen

Sometimes hardship can yield unexpected results. The Lone Bellow, the band made up of members Zach Williams, Kanene Pipkin, and Brian Elmquist, is an example of how this works. Williams, the founding member, wrote many of the songs from their first album in the wake of struggle. Before the band came together, Williams’ wife broke her neck in a horse riding accident and was temporarily paralyzed. Not knowing if his wife would ever fully recover from her injury, Williams began writing a journal in which he recorded his fear, anger, and struggle. His wife eventually regained her ability to walk, and after sharing his journals with some close friends, he was prompted to turn his entries into songs. This was the beginning of The Lone Bellow, which came together in a more final form years later after a move from the South to Brooklyn.

The music that The Lone Bellow has made expresses Williams’ struggle well, but presents it in a more universal and relatable way, making it easier for listeners to identify with it. In the song “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional”, he sings,

It was written in vain
I don’t care if you know
Pour my tear down a drain
Let ‘em sleep in slow
Oh, we can dance around what happened
Play the music soft and low
But you can be all kinds of emotional

This song expresses how a person can come to terms with a traumatic experience. There are multiple ways that they can respond, two being ignoring it or keep going in spite of it, and both are considered in “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional”. The song tells listeners that there are all kinds of ways to respond to pain, but that everybody goes through it. This is broad enough that listeners can apply it to a variety of experiences or interpret it differently, but it is still true to Williams’ specific struggle.

Although the music comes from a period of brokenness, pain is not all that is expressed in this music. For instance, the song “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” is surprisingly upbeat and assures listeners that, “It’s alright”. Williams writes,

It’s harder than we thought it’d be
We’re losing blood with every beat
Our song is not a dying dream
You’re not alone, you’re not alone
Green eyes and a heart of gold
Money’s gone and the house is cold
And it’s alright, it’s alright...

Through his pain, Williams was able to find hope and joy, which is especially apparent in the tone and instrumentation of the song. These songs assure listeners that suffering does not have the last word, even if it looks bleak. Although the songs were written in sorrow, they allow room for promise in spite of circumstances.

~ Avery Johnson


Calvin performances

  • Apr 15, 2014; CFAC