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Review: The Lone Bellow, 'Walk Into A Storm'

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

The Lone Bellow, <em>Walk Into A Storm.</em>
/ Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist
The Lone Bellow, Walk Into A Storm.

If there's a secret to the warm, wide-open sound of The Lone Bellow, it lies in absolute sincerity and commitment: As playful as their live shows can be, Zach Williams, Kanene Donehey Pipkin and Brian Elmquist perform with openhearted, vein-bursting conviction. All three of the band's albums — including the new Walk Into A Storm — ably capture the group's earnest, agreeable charm, dispensed via songs that amble and soar.

Between 2015's Then Came The Morning and Walk Into A Storm, The Lone Bellow relocated from Brooklyn to Nashville — a move reflected by the presence of producer Dave Cobb, who's overseen star-making albums for the likes of Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson. Cobb gives Walk Into A Storm a bright, crisp, sunny sound that perfectly matches The Lone Bellow's penchant for warmly rousing, gospel-inflected Americana.

The record comes stacked with charisma-drenched ringers, from the crowd-pleasing single "Time's Always Leaving" to the roiling opener "Deeper In The Water" — which, in turn, gives way to "Is It Ever Gonna Be Easy," a slow-burner that channels both Van Morrison and his spiritual descendant, Glen Hansard. Elsewhere, Williams and Pipkin duet in the string-swept ballad "Come Break My Heart Again," Pipkin takes the lead in the countrified barnstormer "Feather," and Williams conjures up the chiming charm of late-'80s college radio in "Can't Be Happy For Long." All the way through, each song is calibrated for maximum ingratiation — a goal it hits with clockwork precision.

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Corrected: September 7, 2017 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this story misspelled Kanene Donehey Pipkin's middle name as Doheney.
Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)