Album Reviews

Here's a little Saturday afternoon mini-review of one of my favorite albums of the year. Please check out the fine new CD by The Lonetones. The Lonetones’ new album, “Dumbing It All Down,” does anything but simplify. Quite the opposite, the album is an exploration and celebration of nuance at a time we’ve seemingly lost our ability to see it. Lyrically, the theme plays out from the opening lines of the title track, “Same old fantasies everybody reads, there’s only saints and sinners and everbody’s fooled.” Reading like a commentary on 2017 America, the album draws subject matter from both the public and the personal with references, such as a song based on Walter Cronkite’s two-dimensional 1963 portrait of Appalachia, to historical events and timeless themes that read like today’s newspaper. Musically, the album is perhaps the group’s most complex. From its opening banjo notes, through quiet ballads, much will seem familiar to long-time fans, but the disc contains musical surprises at every turn, adding layers to the group’s previous recordings. With backing from excellent musicians such as Jamie Cook on drums and Cecilia Wright Miller on cello and the nice addition of Will Boyd’s saxophone, the album has an added urgency throughout with unexpected interjections by horns, strings, double banjo parts or the sweeping pop sound of keyboards that lifts out of the dreamy intro to, “Of Course.” The excellent song writing, vocals and instrumentation that have marked previous Lonetones releases are brought, on “Dumbing It All Down,” to another level. It’s tighter while being more expansive, focuses on the loss of nuance while delivering it in every direction and sends the group’s musical message to new heights. Here’s hoping it reaches the fans it deserves.” - Alan Sims (Knoxville Urban Guy)

Inside of Knoxville Blog

It’s obvious to anyone that resides nearby, not to mention to those that have played particular attention through the years, that East Tennessee is a wellspring of great musical talent. While Nashville may tend to overshadow Knoxville due to its star power and legendary stature, the musicians that call the other side of the state home -- people like Darrell Scott, Mic Harrison, Tim and Susan Lee, Kevin Abernathy, Blue Mother Tupelo, Robinella, Eli Fox and all the others -- are equally adept at making music that resonates, inspires and representative of a vibrant musical scene.  The Lonetones are one of the bands that’s long since staked their claim to East Tennessee’s signature sound, one that carries echoes of its Appalachian roots while fitting that down home style into a contemporary context. With three previous efforts to their credit, the band, helmed by  Steph Gunnoe (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar) and Sean McCollough (vocals, banjo, mandolin, keys, guitar) along with Cecilia Wright Miller (cello, vocals), Jamie Cook (drums, vocals) and Bryn Davies and Vince Ilagan (bass, vocals), finds a comfortable niche that’s somewhere between bluegrass regalia and the tender musings of better singer/songwriter fare. While comparisons with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings may seem inevitable, their reverence for archetypical Americana is undeniable. The band’s new album, Dumbing It All Down, doesn’t exactly speak true to its title, although the fact that they can take an understated approach and create such lilting melodies as a result speaks to their proficiency and prowess. The driving “Sweet Sinners,” “Tiny Trees” and “Life of the Mind” find the band shoring up their strengths with a powerful punch, but even on the more tender tunes like the title track, “Of Course” and “When I Roam,” the clarity and commitment is still apparent. The Lonetones make music that’s beautiful, beguiling and consistently captivating, and with Dumbing It All Down they prove once again why wider recognition is not only due, but likely only a matter of time. Yes, their native Knoxville has reason to be proud.  ” - Lee Zimmerman

Do Depression

TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2012 Modern Victims," The Lonetones  Think of the Lonetones as spiritual kin to Wilco or the Byrds. Led by husband and wife team and lead singer-songwriters Sean McCullough and Steph Gunnoe, The Lonetones are folky, a little rock and are constantly finding new and gorgeous sounds and expanding their horizons. The leaders' songs and vocals are contrasts that blend into something amazing.” - Wayne Bledsoe

Knoxville News Sentinel

The Lonetones (not to be confused with the Lovetones, a dissimilar power pop outfit), hail from Knoxville Tennessee, a hotbed of incredibly vibrant music and home to rootsy combos of incredible aptitude. Modern Victims is the first offering from this immensely talented five piece and an auspicious intro at that, an album that sounds more like the product of a band with at least a decade under their collective belts, certainly not a group made up of novices or newcomers. Sweet and joyful at every turn, it casts melodies as sweet as honey and tunes every bit as beguiling. Whether it’s the soft shimmer of “Missions,” the rugged, resilient folk-like burnish of “Unprepared” or the catchy acoustic riffing of “Alone,” the band seems to have emerged fully formed and solidly structured from the get-go. Fiddle, mandolin and quiet harmonies play a prominent part in the proceedings, making songs like “Shame” and “Loosely Based” sound something like an Appalachian revival meeting. Yet,  the tradition they tap becomes only part of the overall equation; these engaging encounters could be considered radio-ready regardless of the environs.  To say this is an outstanding effort doesn’t even begin to describe it.” - Lee Zimmerman

No Depression Magazine

Modern Appalachia – a delightThe Lonetones are a traditional looking combo with acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin and upright bass and a vocalist with a crystal clear high lonesome sound but that’s only the sheep’s clothing as there is a wolf lurking behind the façade. A wolf of fuzzed guitar, sonic effects, barbed lyricism and social commentary.The album opens with a beautiful mandolin driven paean where singer Steph Gunhoe rails against her home ‘Here in the South’ – I "ain’t gonna shut my mouth". This is soon followed by the title track ‘Canaries’ which rides in on a wave of effects that perfectly frame the wooden sounds that follow with Gunhoe’s vocals , dare I say.. ‘perched’.. on top. The bridge with its distorted guitar had thoughts of Wilco flying round the room.The heart of this album belongs to the simplicity and purity of the ancient instruments as they drive each clearly defined song, indeed some of the songs could feel too slight when stripped of the artifice of production effects – ‘Mohawk’ is a good example of this. This is nit picking as there is much to love here. ‘Amen’ with its melancholy refrain, the innocence of the vocal in ‘Trickle Down’ with hints of Clare Grogan and the almost African rhythms of ‘Smart Country People’” - keith lovejoy


LONETONES SHINE ON NEW CDI am grateful for whatever divine force brought Steph Gunnoe and Sean McCollough together. In addition to their marriage and family, their union has also spawned incredibly beautiful original Americana music....The Lonetones’ sophomore effort will not disappoint. There is plenty of what we’ve come to know, love and expect from the band, but their contemplative mood on “Nature Hatin’ Blues” demonstrates thoughtful growth in their new work. Diehard fans and new comers will not be disappointed.” - Debra Dylan

RECORD REVIEW OF USEFUL Longtime Knoxvillian Sean McCollough and relative area newcomer Steph Gunnoe combine talents in the act the Lonetones with excellent results. The harmonies, both instrumental and vocal, are sweet, and the songs are charming. The two revive the innocence of the singer-songwriters of the early 1960s without becoming precious. McCullough has been in many band configurations, but, with Gunnoe, he may have found his perfect partner.” - Wayne Bledsoe

Knoxville News Sentinel

PERFORMING SONGWRITER DIY TOP-12 PICKSimple country melodies and beautifully executed three-part harmonies weave the songs on Useful together like a necklace of wildflowers.” - DIY Top 12 Pick

Performing Songwriter Magazine