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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale


The Lone Bellow in concert. The Space. Evanston, IL

I went to a show last night. In a small room in a quiet suburb. The Lone Bellow. One of those working bands that exist by traveling in a van and playing small rooms all over the country.

There’s the door, which they get a cut of, and the merch table, which pays for the hotels and gas and food. And there are the fans.

The fans show up and pack the place. They sing the tunes. They dance. They love. The band loves back.

These guys are from Nashville, via Brooklyn, and those Brooklyn roots show. They navigate from straight-up three-part mountain harmony, to alt. folk, some head back rock along the way.

Essentially, the band is a trio with a changing cast of drummers and keyboard support, and surprisingly last night, a featured trumpet solo. Zach Williams (guitar/vocals), Kanene Donehey Pipkin (multi-instrumentalist), and Brian Elmquist (guitar.)

Zack Williams is the force of nature in the middle of all this. His writing is well-shaped. His lyric connects. Brian Elmquist lays in incisive guitar, no more, no less than what is needed. Kanene Donehey Pipken alternates between mandolin and bass. Her rhythms root the band and when she steps out to sing solo, her voice is powerful, slides across the melody with a swooping country tinge, a blues inflected punch.

Each is a musician, and I say that meaning each has mastered their instruments and voice. Those voices in tight, three-part harmony from gospel to blue-eyed soul.

Last night marked the tenth anniversary of their debut album. The band worked their way through tracks from that self-titled record. “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold,” “Tree to Grow,” “You Never Need Nobody,” “You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To.”

Yearning, love, loss, sorrow, redemption. The band wraps its arms around the crowd. Walk these lyric back roads with us and feel the sweet and bitter days and nights we sing about. We’re in this together. Always.

They end the show by leaving the stage and moving into the center of the crowd, singing acapella, the crowd joining them in a soft hymn.

A band like this sparks a deep, resonant moment.

We need this. As the missiles fly and our screens fill with horror, we need our music, live and sweaty, real, tangible, skin against steel, hand-made and drawn from the air, shaped into a beautiful, ineffable energy that feeds our soul. Music is church.

Christopher McHale is a writer, currently in need of a new pair of sneakers. Subscribe for free at Algorithm friendly service guaranteed.

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Nov 05, 2023

On your review, listened to The Lone Bellow. Thanks, really like them. And they are in my neighborhood, sorta, well, NYC anyway.

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