The formation of The Lone Bellow seven years ago seems like a star-crossed event. Guitarist/vocalist Brian Elmquist was a solo artist in Nashville who played regular gigs and recorded three albums, while mandolinist/vocalist Kanene Pipkin was living, performing and teaching music lessons in Beijing, China. Guitarist/vocalist Zach Williams had the most terrifying journey; during his wife’s recovery from temporary paralysis after being thrown from a horse, Williams kept a journal documenting his thoughts and fears. Friends encouraged him to set his journal entries to music, which necessitated learning to play guitar and write songs.Fate intervened when Pipkin’s brother asked her and Williams to sing at his wedding, and the pair discovered their nearly sibling-perfect harmonies. Everything coalesced when Williams, who had relocated to New York City to further his solo career, ran into Elmquist, an old friend from Georgia who had done the same. Within a couple of years, Pipkin had also moved to New York and the band developed organically from there. The Lone Bellow recorded its 2013 debut album with renowned Nashville producer Charlie Peacock, an uncalculated but shrewd move that raised the project’s profile and made them the darlings of Folk/Americana.
Although The Lone Bellow spent close to two years on the road to support its debut, the musicians wrote constantly and, by 2014, they had over 40 new songs to consider for their sophomore effort. They compiled a wish list of producers to work with in the studio and went straight to the top of the list for their initial contact, The National’s Aaron Dessner, who immediately agreed to produce Then Came the Morning. The 2015 album, packed with the band’s patented brutal, true-life honesty and experiences, also featured brass and string arrangements by Bryce Dessner and bested its predecessor’s sales, cracking the Top 50 of Billboard’s Top 200.
After a 2015 tour opening for Kacey Musgraves and a 2016 Americana Music Award nomination for Duo/Group of the Year, The Lone Bellow relocated to Nashville. For its third album, last year’s Walk Into a Storm, the trio chose to work with Music City’s producer du jour Dave Cobb; while the album’s chart performance was underwhelming, it was critically well received as a logical, powerful and well-crafted addition to the trio’s already estimable catalog.
The Lone Bellow’s current TRIIIO Tour comes to Cincinnati's Memorial Hall on Nov. 28. The stripped-down trek was inspired by a regular segment of full-band Lone Bellow tours during which Elmquist, Williams and Pipkin gather around a single microphone and play only acoustically. The intimacy and acoustics of Memorial Hall seem tailor-made for a TRIIIO tour stop; if you're a Lone Bellow fan, it should be an especially magical experience.
To get fans in the right mood for the tour, The Lone Bellow released a new EP, The Restless, in mid-October that was recorded using the same acoustics-and-a-single-mic approach. Among the tracks is a cover of The National's "Pink Rabbits," for which the group released a live performance video in September.