Sunday, March 15, 2015

Then Came the Morning, by the Lone Bellow (Album of the Week)

The Lone Bellow’s sophomore album, “Then Came the Morning”, is an earnest effort that annoys more than it hooks.  By the time they start rhyming “Telluride” with “hell you ride”, it doesn’t matter how much you enjoy harmonies and guitar work – you want this album to end.  It doesn’t.  It limps on for three more songs, and extinguishes itself with a lifeless, plodding ditty called “I Let You Go” which wastes some really nice guitar work in a song that doesn’t deserve it. 

This album has every trick in the Americana playbook.  In “Fake Roses”, you get a character study of a jilted woman living with fake roses (OMG, the rich SYMBOLISM!!) and postcards of Elvis.  And she watches TV.  The whole tedious exercise ends with the instruments dropping away for a virtually a cappella ending.  It’s like a satire of the Americana genre.

“Watch Over Us” starts out with humming over an acoustic guitar.  It kind of makes me retroactively go back and hate the Cowboy Junkies because it makes their techniques seem heavy-handed now.

“Call to War” is a generic anti-war piece that hints at a Confederate sympathy, but it’s hard to assign hard meaning to “’til the southern wind puts me six feet down/my feet will march to holy ground.”  The whole thing is strung together like that – images that don’t really add up to anything, but sound like they ought to.

This album would probably be a lot better if you didn’t listen to it as an album.  Taken as a whole, its lapses in judgment and phrases of ludicrous lyrics accumulate and lead to eye-rolling.  Taken individually and freed from guilt by association, I can imagine that several of these songs would sound fine. 

David Allan Coe famously performed a song written by John Prine and Steven Goodman that described the perfect country-and-western song:

I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick'er up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got runned over by a damned ol' train.

The Lone Bellow’s “Then Came the Morning” might be considered the perfect Americana album in the same satirical light.  Torturously slow vocals, check.  Steel guitar, check.  Ham-fisted imagery, check.  Harmonizing everywhere, check.  Forced rhymes, check.

At Deliberate Obfuscation, Robin is much more kind than I am, though she finds herself confused by the multiple styles represented.

In closing, I should reiterate that the songs of this album are not as bad as I’m making them sound.  Individually, you will probably like a few of these songs.  But this is a review of an album, and it’s simply not a very good one.

Next up: New Orleans Brass Bands: Through the Streets of the City, by Liberty Brass Band, Treme Brass Band, Hot 8 Brass Band

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