The Lone Bellow

Half Moon Light

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The Lone Bellow may have been formed in New York City, but a listen to their first two albums, 2013's The Lone Bellow and 2015's Then Came the Morning, made it abundantly clear the three members of the group originally came from the Deep South. Their sound was an emphatic but unforced breed of Americana that was a good match for the passionate, often personal stories of lives in the balance that informed their lyrics. After moving to Nashville, the roots rock side of their personality lost some ground to a more explicitly country approach on 2017's Dave Cobb-produced Walk Into a Storm, but 2020's Half Moon Light finds them heading off into new territory. There's just enough twang audible on Half Moon Light to mark this as Americana, but the dominant sound hovers somewhere between indie rock and adult alternative, a smart mix of acoustic and electric instruments that gives keyboards a larger role than before and sounds cool and refined, even as Zach Williams' lead vocals hold on to their gentle drawl and emotional heft. While Williams and his bandmates -- multi-instrumentalist Kanene Donehey Pipkin and guitarist Brian Elmquist -- don't sound so different themselves, their surroundings do, and this appears to be an effort to move out of the roots music underground into more eclectic territory. Aaron Dessner of the National produced Half Moon Light (he was also at the controls for Then Came the Morning), and he's expertly constructed the cleaner surfaces and more expansive tone of this LP; he knows how to pump up the drama of tunes like "Friends," "Just Enough to Get By," and "I Can Feel You Dancing." That said, Half Moon Light also finds the Lone Bellow trading someplace where they felt right at home in favor of a musical direction that seems just a bit foreign, and even when the songs and production mesh, this never flows as naturally as they did on their earliest work. This album is a bold step into fresh creative ground for the Lone Bellow, but they seem to still be settling into their new musical home.

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