Zach Williams, the Lone Bellow’s lead singer and principal songwriter, can pinpoint just about exactly when the Brooklyn-based group serendipitously willed itself into being. It was around 9 a.m. one morning in 2010, at Dizzy’s Diner in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where the Lone Bellows guitarist and Williams’ old friend Brian Elmquist was working a shift. Williams, up to then performing as a solo artist, needed a place to try out some new songs; for a scuffling artist, the diner was as good as any rehearsal space. He asked fellow singer Kanene Pipkin, just returned to New York City from living in Beijing, to meet them at the diner and the trio did more than merely jam. With the beginnings of a repertoire and an already strong communal spirit, that fateful morning they became the Lone Bellow. As Williams recalls, “Three songs in I realized I should quit what I’m doing and just make music with these people.”
And that’s what he did. The trio’s self-titled debut disc is exuberant in its playing, welcoming in its attitude. Though the lyrics have a melancholic undercurrent, the tracks are more often rave-ups than ruminations, with swelling three-part harmonies and rousing group-sung choruses, especially on the electric guitar-driven “The One You Should’ve Let Go” and “Green Eyes and A Heart of Gold,” a we-will-survive anthem that could be about a family or a band. Indeed, there is a strong familial feel to The Lone Bellow, a recurring theme of inclusiveness.
That sentiment lies at the heart of the album and Williams’ own career to date. The native Georgian first came to songwriting via near tragedy. While still living down south, Williams’ young wife was catastrophically injured in a horseback riding accident. Physicians initially told Williams that, at best, his wife would leave the hospital a paraplegic. But doctors at the pioneering Shepard Center in Atlanta thought otherwise and after months of rehab there she ultimately regained the ability to walk. Throughout the ordeal, Williams had been scribbling his thoughts into a journal; good friend Caleb Clardy, co-writer of “Teach Me To Know,” suggested he turn his writing into songs. The couple’s friends had rallied around them, practically living in the hospital waiting room with Williams, organically becoming the support group he needed. Williams admits, “That was the first time I really experienced somebody trying their best to carry someone else’s burden. It was very moving to me. I was going to classes on how to bathe and feed my wife, and I was trying to process all the fear and anger and the numbness. I started reading my friends these journal entries. I was writing in a kind of rhyming form because it helped to keep my mind focused. Caleb said, these are songs, man, you need to learn how to play the guitar and sing at he same time.”
Dawes – From The Right Angle (Stories Don’t End, HUB Records) Iron & Wine – New Mexico’s No Breeze (Ghost On Ghost, Nonesuch) The Strokes – Partners In Crime (Comedown Machine, RCA) Cold War Kids – Jailbirds (Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, Downtown Music) Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Let The Day Begin (Specter At The Feast, Vagrant) The Black Angels – You’re Mine (Indigo Meadow, Blue Horizon) The Lone Bellow – Green Eyes & A Heart Of Gold (The Lone Bellow, Descendant) Ivan & Alyosha – Be Your Man (All The Times We Had, Dualtone) The Besnard Lakes – The Specter (Until In Excess Imperceptible UFO, Jagjaguwar) Hotpipes – For Cowboy (DUST, Hotpipes Music) Palma Violets – Best Of Friends (180, Rough Trade) Art Brut – My Little Brother (Top Of The Pops, The End Records) New Process – Freedom (Original Raw Soul III, Now-Again)
Little Green Cars – Harper Lee (Absolute Zero, Glassnote) The Lone Bellow – The One You Should’ve Let Go (The Lone Bellow, Descendant Records) Charles Walker & The Dynamites – Still Can’t Get You Out Of My Heart (Love Is Only Everything, Gemco Records) Charles Bradley – Strictly Reserved For You (Victim Of Love, Daptone) Dawes – Hey Lover (Stories Don’t End, HUB Records) Caitlin Rose – Menagerie (The Stand-In, ATO Records) The Strokes – Welcome To Japan (Comedown Machine, RCA) The Virgins – Wheel Of Fortune (Strike Gently, Cult Records) Wavves – Sail To The Sun (Afraid Of Heights, Mom+Pop) Vampire Weekend – Diane Young (Vampires Of The City, XL Recordings) Allen Stone – Rocky Mountain High (The Music Is You: Tribute To John Denver, ATO) Ivan & Alyosha – Running For Cover (All The Times We Had, Dualtone) Girls Names – Pittura Infamante (The New Life, Slumberland)
The Joy Formidable – This Ladder Is Ours (Wolf’s Law, Atlantic) Local Natives – Breakers (Hummingbird, Frenchkiss) Ruby Suns – In Real Life (Christopher, Sub Pop) Black Light Dinner Party – Older Together (BLDP, Decimal.one) The Lone Bellow – You Never Need Nobody (The Lone Bellow, Descendant Records) Band Of Horses – Slow Cruel Hands Of Time (Mirage Rock, Columbia) Yo La Tengo – Well You Better (Fade, Matador) Spinto Band – Shake It Off (Cool Cocoon, Spintonic Recordings) Fela Kuti – Everything Scatter (Best of the Black President 2, Kalakuta Sunrise/Knitting Factory) Marcos Valle – Garra (Garra, Light In The Attic) The Who – Relay (30 Years Of Maximum R&B, MCA/Universal)
Yo La Tengo – Stupid Things (Fade, Matador) Besnard Lakes – You Make Loving Fun (Rumours Revisited, MOJO Magazine) Bleeding Rainbow – Drift Away (Yeah Right, Kanine Records) Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside – Party Kids (Untamed Beast, Partisan) The Delta Saints – Death Letter Jubilee (Death Letter Jubilee, self-released) The Lone Bellow – The One You Should’ve Let Go (The Lone Bellow, Descendant) D. Watusi – Danny Kokomo (Dark Party, Nashville’s Dead Records) Parquet Courts – Borrowed Thyme (Light Up Gold, What’s Your Rupture?) Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love (Beta Love, Barsuk) Toro Y Moi – Say That (Anything In Return, Carpark Records) Night Beds – Ramona (Country Sleep, Dead Oceans) Christopher Owens – Lysandre (Lysandre, Fat Possum) Tender Trap – Step One (Ten Songs About Girls, Fortuna Pop!)