First Listen: The Lone Bellow, 'The Lone Bellow'

NPR icon by Stephen Thompson
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Zach Williams didn't initially set out to form The Lone Bellow; in fact, he never really meant to write songs at all. For the singer and bandleader, creative expression first arose out of a need to process the horrors of an accident that almost left his wife paralyzed from the neck down. It wasn't until he'd written his thoughts in a journal and shared them with a friend that he saw fit to transform them into songs, then move to Brooklyn and assemble a band to play them.

The Lone Bellow toured with The Civil Wars prior to that duo's hiatus — producer Charlie Peacock produced both of their respective debuts — and soon signed the label deal that spawned its fine self-titled debut, out Jan. 22. But if The Lone Bellow breaks big, which seems like a decent possibility, it'll be with songs of survival and redemption, written out of necessity rather than opportunity.

Still, The Lone Bellow's music has commercial cachet to spare, as the roots-pop rumble of Mumford & Sons mixes agreeably with the more emotionally resonant folk-rock belting of The Swell Season or the aforementioned Civil Wars. (Williams vocals in "Two Sides of Lonely" and "Looking for You" are pure Glen Hansard, which is hardly a bad thing.) But what stands out most about The Lone Bellow isn't any similarity to other artists, but rather its radiantly hooky songs: They're the engine that drove the band's creation, rather than the other way around, and it shows.

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