The Lone Bellow has made its waves around the music industry, developing a signature country folk/soul sound that has impressed both critics and fans for the past four years or so. While the trio of Zach Williams, Kanene Donehey Pipkin, and Brian Elmquist never really blew my mind from an artistic standpoint, I was fascinated with their extraordinary chemistry, and knack for performing on a high level. Their ability to harmonize perfectly together has always been uncanny.
I was especially interested in how they would approach their third studio album, Walk Into A Storm. Between their country influenced self-titled project from 2013, and their more Gospel and ballad-driven sophomore follow-up, Then Came the Morning (2015), The Lone Bellow dazzled me with their versatility style-wise, which kept me intrigued for their most recent record.
Wistfully, the trio seemed to have created Then Came the Morning 2.0. Much like that album, Walk Into a Storm is very ballad-happy and Gospel-heavy. It’s hard to differentiate between the two projects. While the production is clean on their third effort, with Williams and Pipkin harmonizing swiftly across each track, this album seems a tad bit safe.
They wrote these songs without giving really any context or backstory for their inspiration. It almost sound like these were throwaway songs from their second record. Singles like, “Is it Ever Going to be Easy,” and “Feather” are impressively orchestrated works, but rarely is there any innovation or experimentation shown throughout the 38-minute running time.
This album reminds me of a mediocre sequel to a superb first outing. There are very minimal instances of the trio adding gorgeous background vocals to their songs, which was present on a majority of their past works. They’re at their best when they are adding layers, enhancing their chemistry even more.
Many of the tracks themselves on Walk Into A Storm are just fine. Ultimately, the ten song track-list seems a tiny bit underdeveloped, and loaded with potential. While none of the members have missed a beat performance-wise, their limitations were exposed multiple times. One of the bigger anomalies here is the beautiful finale, “Long Way to Go,” where Williams and Pipkin appear to be at their most honest and aware of the world surrounding them. The title track also was one of the better highlights with Williams showing some subtlety reminiscent of 60s music.
There are many people who hate when a certain band/artist decides to change the sound and style up on a certain album. I’m one of those people who enjoys listening to musicians who push some boundaries within their style. Sure, maybe that’s not The Lone Bellow’s goal, but the lyrics are too trite and generic to really make a mark on the project. The production is clean per usual, and the singing is really great, but nothing about the aesthetic is necessarily groundbreaking or memorable.
There’s definitely something that the trio was trying to get at, but the album never feels like anything more than just a collection of B-side songs from their previous body of work.
It’s a shame, because I thoroughly enjoyed their first two projects, and I had extremely high hopes for this recent record. Talent-wise, everything is there, but they could have capitalized on so much more.
That being said, I’m still curious about what direction they eventually go towards in the future. It would be unfair to completely disregard their music just because of an underdeveloped album.
As someone who’s not a huge fan of country music, The Lone Bellow was one of the only bands to impress me with their ability to mesh different genres together. Hopefully, they can re-capture that energy that made them so likable in the past.