Music

The Lone Bellow Create Intimate Americana Chamber Pieces on 'Half Moon Light'

Photo: Shervin Lainez / Courtesy of Big Hassle Media

The writing on the Lone Bellow's Half Moon Light strives towards the essence of a thing – emotional conflict and tension, inward or interpersonal – and resolution.

Half Moon Light
The Lone Bellow

Dualtone

7 February 2020

The Lone Bellow's Half Moon Light begins and ends with some distant hymnal-sounding piano lines, recorded in a presumably spontaneous way in a crowded communal setting. The brief pieces have musical and conceptual functions. It is true to characterize the music of the Lone Bellow as Americana, arising at its folk-rock, alt-country, and bluegrass edges. The melodies and pace of their music are not hurried; the harmonies feel authentic and intimate; the mood frequently solemn. The opening and closing passages fit musically as segues on Half Moon Light.

When we discover that the passages are recordings furnished by vocalist/guitarist, Zach Williams, of his grandmother playing at the funeral of her husband of 64 years, their conceptual purpose also becomes clear. "She sat down at the piano and confidently pounded out her favorite hymns with her feeble fingers," he writes in the liner notes, "surrounded by the voices of her six children and a room packed full of our hometown community."

The songs on Half Moon Light are straightforwardly personal in this way, and the key songwriters in the group describe candid scenes such as this from their own lives. Williams remembers his late grandfather in "I Can Feel You Dancing", and Brian Elmqvist describes reconciling with his late father in "Wash It Clean". The song's opening lines, "all my life I tried to let you go / would you stay" conjure real pain and regret. Maybe most striking of all, Kanene Donehey Pipkin's "Just Enough to Get By" obliquely describes the traumas arising around a rape and the toll of carrying the heart-burdening secrets it produces.

All of the writing on Half Moon Light seems to strive towards the essence of a thing – emotional conflict and tension, inward or interpersonal – and resolution. Taken individually, such songs might appear simply biographical or confessional on the part of their respective writers. But taken altogether as a single cohesive piece, as is surely the intention here, the music jumps the subjective barrier and becomes a sensitive and forceful engagement with universally experienced emotional conditions. It arrives at an optimism that feels authentic and hard-won.

The group's music and musical arrangements sometimes feel ordinary relative to the drama conveyed by the lyrics. The prevailing direction is folk and alt-country. The songs are not sing-along anthems spiked by punchy choruses, in the style of, say, the Lumineers. They are instead intimate chamber pieces belonging to the singer-songwriter folk tradition. There are touches of roots rock and a distinct – maybe all-too-obvious – influence derived from Paul Simon and the slick R&B moves he incorporated in his mid-'80s solo work. At its best, though, and for the most part, the music is simple and beautiful and understated.

7


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Raashan Ahmad Talks With PopMatters About His Place in 'The Sun'

On his latest work,The Sun, rapper Raashan Ahmad brings his irrepressible charisma to this set of Afrobeat-influenced hip-hop.

Music

Between the Buried and Me's Baby Pictures Star in 'The Silent Circus'

The Silent Circus shows Between the Buried and Me developing towards the progressive metal titans they would eventually become.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Music

Vistas' 'Everything Changes in the End' Is Catchy and Fun Guitar Rock

Vistas' debut, Everything Changes in the End, features bright rock music that pulls influences from power-pop and indie rock.

Film

In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?

Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.