The Lone Bellow makes people cry.
It’s the combination of frontman Zach Williams’ earnest storytelling, the gorgeous, churchlike harmonies of bandmates Brian Elmquist and Kanene Pipkin and the heart-twisting choruses. Take the one from “Two Sides of Lonely”: “Two sides of lonely/ one’s in the grave/ and the other should be.” Tearing up yet?
“We count it a blessing to be able to sing these songs over and over,” says Williams, 32, while driving the band to a show in Minneapolis. “And the room has a lot to do with [the emotionally intense shows]. … People want to be a part of moments that matter.”
The native Georgian has a live-in-the-moment attitude that can be traced to the full recovery (“miraculous,” Williams calls it) of his wife, Stacy, after she broke her neck in a horseback-riding accident in 2005.
Inspired to write while dealing with the accident, Williams turned his journal entries into songs, learned to play guitar and started performing at open mics. In 2006, he and Stacy moved to Brooklyn, where Williams pursued a solo career before connecting in 2010 with fellow Georgian and friend Elmquist, a singer-songwriter and guitarist, and singer Pipkin, the younger sister of one of Williams’ friends.
The Lone Bellow has quickly gained entry into the club of new Americana groups making plaid shirts and old-timey instruments (banjo, mandolin and lap steel guitar) fashionable. The band’s performances — full of swooping hooks and emotionally raw lyrics — are like intimate late-night conversations with close relatives and friends.
The band’s self-titled debut album, released in January, is full of songs Williams wrote on a soul-searching trip in Mexico with his wife.
“The great thing about singing songs is that when a song is connected to something personal in your life, it makes you relive those things — the good things and the bad things,” Williams says. “You can’t phone it in when it’s something like a journal entry, something you went through.”
Americana’s Got Talent
The Lone Bellow is featured in “Nashville 2.0,” a PBS documentary about Americana music airing Nov. 22 at 9 p.m. Interviewed for the doc, frontman Zach Williams describes the genre — a combination of country, soul, gospel and folk — as having “an overarching sense of this humanity.” His band is mentioned alongside Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers and The Civil Wars. The Lone Bellow’s first gig was opening for The Civil Wars in Philadelphia in 2010. C.M.
Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW; Sat., 8 p.m., $16-$18; 202-408-3100. (Gallery Place)