Returning with their fourth studio record, The Lone Bellow gives us Half Moon Light and once again reminds fans how joyful music can be to listen to. And whilst Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams, and Kanene Donehey Pipkin each shine on their own fronted songs, it’s their harmony singing which captivates you. The way in which their voices meld into each other bring something otherworldly to the universe seen through their eyes.
Produced by Aaron Dessner (who also produced their second record Then Came The Morning), this new work sees collaborations from various musicians, including guitarist Josh Kaufman and drummer J.T. Baites both of whom Dessner brought in. Of the collaborations on the record, Elmquist said: “We made this record in a place of joy and collaboration with our friends. We were trying to do something bigger than ourselves.”
Unusually it is not the band who begin the record. That honour falls to William’s Grandmother, who features playing a hymn at the funeral of her husband of 64 years. The hymn returns as an interlude and a finale, drawing together the record as a whole and setting it up to be experienced as such.
As with their previous records, vocals take centre stage and are often accompanied by understated but vital instrumentation, whether it being a simple drum line or acoustic guitar, though I must give a little nod to the fabulous guitar on ‘Wash It Clean’ which sings beautifully. Switching between more upbeat numbers and slower moving songs, this variation stops the record feeling stale, as does the changing vocals, with each singer having a distinctive voice. ‘Just Enough To Get By’, the final single to be released before the record as a whole comes out, is an explosive song written by Pipkin and places herself in her mother’s shoes after she found out about the rape and pregnancy that she had experienced at 19 and subsequent giving up of that child.
William’s voice leads you through many of the songs including the lead single from the record ‘Count On Me’ which seems to exemplify what it is like to see The Lone Bellow live. The harmonies on the song remind me of seeing the band conducting the audience during a live rendition of ‘Then Came The Morning’ where half the audience was Elmquist’s and half Pipkin’s. The sense of joy and camaraderie in room as we all sang together runs true on this song.
Many of the songs on the record will delight long time fans of The Lone Bellow and there is plenty here to get your teeth into if you are new to the band. Whilst not all the songs are feel-good tunes, the Americana vibe present throughout leaves you tapping your foot and humming refrains from the songs even after a couple of listens. Which is exactly what happened the first time I heard The Lone Bellow.