The LoneTones
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The LoneTones

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"Knoxville Compilation CD"

"The Soil We Grew Up In" is featured on a Knoxville compilation CD entitled "Greetings From Knoxville."

"The disc includes internationally known acts, including Scott Miller, Donald Brown and RobinElla, and artists who deserve international recognition, including Christabel and the Jons, the Lonetones, Senryu, the American Plague and Sci-Fi Lovestory." (Wayne Bledsoe, Knoxville News Sentinel) - Knoxville News Sentinel


"Music That's Old Fashioned and Progressive"

The relationship between place and music is profound and complicated. Musicians often find a voice that expresses the aspirations, anxieties, and ambiguities of their region and their people. The members of the LoneTones certainly do. Their music rings from the mountains of Appalachia with a reverent, enduring and, at times, conflicted spirit. The band mates shoulder their geography with craft and care. They’re comfortable describing their songs as “fragile little things…kind of like souls” – songs sometimes possessing a quality of “healing.” Their music evokes place, but the LoneTones are anything but complacent. They create light-hearted music for the heavy-hearted, charming music for those charged to act.

Singer/songwriters Steph Gunnoe and Sean McCollough played music together the first night they met in 2000. Four years later, they were married and playing as the LoneTones with bassist Maria Williams and percussionist Phil Pollard. Both Gunnoe and McCollough brought to the group provocative composition and eclectic musical taste. Their sound explores the bedrock of American styles often corralled together under the “Americana” heading, but always with joyful, lilting, pop-tinged warmth.

Their second CD, Nature Hatin’ Blues, is dedicated to “hometowns and misfits everywhere. To mountains and people who fight to save them. To the soil we grew up in…” This deep personal connection to the music is standard practice for the LoneTones. Nature Hatin’ Blues continues their artfully biographical examination of roots versus dislocation, tradition versus progress. Gunnoe’s “The Soil We Grew Up In,” establishes these topics inside the refreshing aesthetic interplay that marks the entire album. She sings: “These little hills so steep/It’s how they keep us in their town/Got our skin so thick/We’ll never get out.” It’s a weighty topic, but Gunnoe’s delivery is sweet, more suitable for lullabies than angst-riddled dissent.

McCollough describes his wife’s distinctive voice as “rooted in the mountains but desiring to sing other kinds of music.” Her vocals are surrounded by ooh-ing and ah-ing backup vocals, Pollard’s twinkling glockenspiel, and McCollough’s sympathetic guitar work.

“I feel a little heavy-handed,” Gunnoe says, explaining the seemingly incongruent arrangements. “I write such serious songs — let’s lighten them up a little bit.”

These assorted preferences seem to have naturally coalesced from Gunnoe and McCollough’s musical and life experiences. “It reflects who I am,” Gunnoe says. “I grew up in a very Appalachian setting — my roots are so here. And I grew up listening to pop radio, going to the one mall in the state. It’s like who you are, but also who you want to be.”

At their core, the LoneTones are, perhaps deceptively, a “protest” group. McCollough cut his teeth playing in activist settings and says he has tried “to keep some thread of that, but not be quite the literal folk-y protester that maybe I used to be.”

For Gunnoe, singing about the mountains and the lives of those who live in them goes even deeper: “I came from a West Virginia coal mining family, and people’s lives are very political — my family’s was. Appalachia is a very politicized place.”

For the LoneTones, the personal is political, and music is home. - Knoxville Voice


"From Seattle to Down South, Gunnoe's LoneTone Journey a Happy One"

By Steve Wildsmith
10/1/04

But for a few fateful turn of events, Stephanie Gunnoe might be playing electric guitar and screaming into a microphone as part of a riot-grrl group out of the Northwest.

Instead, Gunnoe picks sweet acoustic guitar and sings gently as part of The LoneTones, the band she fronts with her husband, singer-songwriter Sean McCollough (who also fronts the local band Evergreen Street). The band plays gentle acoustic music rooted in Gunnoe's Appalachian heritage ... but hearing her story, it's not a stretch to see how she might have ended up signed to Kill Rock Stars along with the label's star band, Sleater-Kinney.

``I was so happy to discover the riot-grrl scene, and it really, really inspired me,'' Gunnoe said recently of the time she spent in Portland, Ore., Sleater-Kinney's hometown. ``I might very well have ended up in one of those types of bands, but I didn't have the riot-grrl kind of voice and the aggression. I just don't have it, but the whole do-it-yourself attitude inspired me.''

Gunnoe's roundabout path to East Tennessee began in West Virginia, where, growing up, she was immersed in music. Her mother sang opera, and her father played the banjo. At the time, she disliked both styles of music, and when she left for college, she chose a place about as far from the West Virginia mountains as she could get -- Washington State.

``I hated bluegrass music, and opera for that matter, until I went to college out there,'' she said. ``I guess seeing all these young people enjoy it made me realize how much I loved it.''

Eventually, she followed a boyfriend and a best friend to Portland, where she began performing with a fellow singer-songwriter named Little Sue.

``We played just kind of raw harmonies, a Hazel-and-Alice type of music,'' she said.

At the time, the grunge movement had just exploded out of Seattle, and the riot-grrl movement arose from that scene. But Gunnoe drifted toward the emerging Eastside Sound, an acoustic revival led by former members of the Holy Modal Rounders and The Fugs.

``It was sort of an acoustic revival, and those guys sort of grandfathered a whole scene,'' Gunnoe said.

Shortly thereafter, homesickness led her back east -- but she wasn't so overcome with it that she wanted to settle back in West Virginia. She settled on graduate school in Knoxville, based in part on its proximity to the mountains that she loved.

``I heard WDVX when I was coming down here to visit the college, and just driving through the mountains, listening to some of the songs, was powerful,'' she said.

Realizing she'd found a spiritual as well as a geographical connection to her childhood, Gunnoe threw herself into studies at the University of Tennessee and the local roots music scene. Her high, melodic voice seems cut from rough mountain fabric, a thick flannel worn to sweet softness that's warm and comforting at the same time.

A chance encounter at Barley's Taproom altered her life when she was introduced to McCollough.

``We came back to our house -- my roommate was his friend, so we came home and played some music that night, and we've been playing ever since,'' she said.

That was back in 2000, and the two were soon known as Steph Gunnoe and Sean McCollough. Their first public gig was a wedding at The Palace Theater in downtown Maryville, and eventually, the two added Maria Williams on harmony vocals and bass and McCollough's Evergreen Street bandmate, Phil Pollard, on drums.

``We were kind of hoping the bigger sound might help us stand up to the noise in a bar,'' she said with a chuckle. ``But it started with just me and Sean. I thought he had just a deep love and understanding of folk music, and somebody said this about him -- and it made a lot of sense -- they said he's kind of a rock 'n' roller but he sort of channels it all into folk music. To me, that's very valuable in the folk music world.''

McCollough and Gunnoe were married about two years ago, she said, and The LoneTones began work on their debut album -- ``Useful,'' a collection of songs that's full of mirth, gentle energy and excellent musicianship -- about a year ago.

``We started a year ago, and we'd had a baby, so it seemed like a pipe dream at the time to make this record,'' said Gunnoe, whose stepchildren attend school in Alcoa. ``We were pretty deliberate that we wanted to try and keep it true to our sound. It's pretty tempting to make your vocals better and add a bunch of instruments, because Sean can play anything, but we tried to keep it toned down to keep from disappointing people live.''

Their success is self-evident, and anyone who listens will most certainly agree -- Gunnoe sounds much more at home singing and playing Americana than she would have been raging through a raucous set of girl-punk.

The LoneTones will also perform Oct. 16 at the South Knox Heritage Center's ``Hank Williams Day'' and at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at Lawson-McGhee Library in downtown Knoxville.

- The Daily Times, Maryville, TN


"Comments After LoneTones Concert at Laurel Theater"

Steph Gunnoe and Sean McCollough produce bittersweet harmonies as plaintively haunting and beautiful as the landscape of their Appalachian home. Gunnoe’s voice yields a tender-ripe yearning tempered by McCollough’s rich accompaniment. The duo’s songs and lyrics have a timeless quality reminiscent of masters such as the Carter Family or acclaimed moderns such as Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Iris DeMent or Victoria Williams and Marc Olson. Gunnoe and McCollough create imaginative melodies of nostalgia and longing, that sing of dusky mountain twilights and introspection. - Gretchen Geisingser, Concert Manager


"LoneTones at South Knoxville Festivals"

The Lone Tones have played at several of our festivals and are a favorite with the audience. Steph Gunnoe, a gifted songwriter, creates poetry that at times touches our pain lightly enough to bring tears to our eyes. Her lyrics and melodies speak to modern dilemmas, while the West Virginia sound of her voice keeps the music rooted in the past. - Trudy Monaco, Director


"KDHX D.J. Quote"

"Nature Hatin' Blues": top ten album of 2007

Steph Gonne’s singing ranks with the best of 'em lucinda williams, iris dement, hazel dickens.... - boBEE at KDHX, St. Louis, Mo.


"Best of 2004 Ballots"

• Useful: for top ten albums on Nashville Scene ballot
• “Little Thing”: for top ten singles on Nashville Scene ballot
• “Little Thing”: for top ten singles/radio cut on Village Voice ballot
- Wayne Bledsoe, Knoxville News Sentinel


"Record Review of Nature Hatin' Blues"

I 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. Sean’s friendship with drummer/percussionist Phil Pollard eventually lured Pollard to the band, and Pollard’s friendship with his neighbor Maria Williams added her angelic backup vocals and an upright bass to round out this gifted quartet.
On Friday, November 17, The Lonetones will be celebrating their much anticipated, long awaited release of their new CD, “Nature Hatin’ Blues". Their CD release party will be held at Carpe Librum Booksellers from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.
This follow up to their wonderful debut CD, “Useful,” which included the popular single “Little Thing,” finds the band in a more contemplative mood on “Nature Hatin’ Blues.” “Useful” was dominated by plucky love songs and the living was easy (except when being bathed by mama). Their new CD is “dedicated to hometowns and misfits everywhere. To mountains and people who fight to save them. To the soil we grew up in….” Sean says he and Steph did not plan to write a themed album about internal struggles, “it just turned out that way.” While “Nature Hatin’ Blues” explores several thorny topics, the songwriting is striking and their delivery is, as always, very moving and very engaging.
The CD kicks off with slices of perfection. “The Soil We Grew Up In” is deceiving. The melody is very cheerful. Pollard chiming in on glockenspiel adds charm to the solid guitar work and soft lush harmonies, but here begins our introduction to the struggle and conflict. Steph, with her stirring vocals, sings this tale about never being satisfied, “in love with any place around the bend/never to love the place we’re in. Low self-esteem is another recurring theme and presents itself here with comparisons to celebrity culture and “love for anyone but not yourself.” Serious topics, gently, lovingly and happily performed.

“Nervous System’s” opening groove and continued rhythm is addictive. This lighthearted look at children provoking parents, hippies and young people “abandoning places that needed them most” is fun and its chorus contains one of the best lines of the CD: “We survive the complicated/ situations we’ve created.”
“Heart Shaped Box” is a gentle and sweet love song from Sean that is more reminiscent of the halcyon days found in “Useful.” This aging realist promises that “where you lead/I just might follow/But you better not count on a good straight row.” This tender tempered song is in great contrast to Steph’s “Shallow,” where it has “been a long time since I was wrong.” This upbeat pop-style song is riddled with angst and “things that cannot be saved” but concludes with some hope. During the last verse and fade out, Maria treats us to beautiful backup vocals and solid bass accompaniment.
The title track, “Nature Hatin’ Blues,” has a smooth and sweet lighthearted accompaniment to lyrics about a person who struggles with human nature and longs to be be part of the natural world again. This natural world is threatened in Sean’s “State of the Art,” a very driven and banjo dominated political piece about strip mining, pollution and destruction of our mountains “These changes I see comin’ are tearing at my heart.”
“Metamorphosize” turns on the charm with its old time guitar work, banjo strumming and lovely harmonies. It’s an interesting tale that dwells in the possibility of choice and change to “lose your mama’s ways and your faith in martyrdom.” Musically, this song ends unresolved, which is nice touch.
“Drunken Bee” is endearing with its lively simple beauty. The harmonies on the chorus are touching and the lyricism sweet: “Like a flower I opened up/a little bit of nectar in a purly cup.” The acappella ending is a terrific and satisfying conclusion.
“Shine On” is Sean’s lovely country music waltz and ode to Knoxville. Here, there is no more longing for what’s around the bend. As a man grows older his perceptions change. In the beginning he is reaching for a bottle, then for tomorrow and finally, for his daughter. “Oh Knoxville, I never knew you so well.” The heartfelt and sincere touching duet between Sean and Steph on the chorus is lovely, and the unexpected gentle electric guitar work adds a nice variety.
Gretchen Geisinger of the Laurel Theatre has accurately and wonderfully described Steph’s voice as “a tender ripe yearning.” That yearning is maximized in “Lonely Skin” where a late-blooming female learns to “love her only place” and to “love your only skin.” Of course, the backup vocal harmonies are terrific and the summer-of-love, feelin’ groovy kind of melody adds a nice lightheartedness to these lyrics about the awkward journey to self-discovery.
“Broken Path” is a sad struggle in coping with broken hearts and broken dreams. This song features nice piano accompaniment from Geol Greenlee. “Burnt Tires” continues with despondency and heartache that “doesn’t really matter.” Phil Pollard sets an intriguing and moody tone throughout this song with a combination of drums and percussive elements. The tension builds with the late introduction of Steph and Marie’s backup vocals. Sean McCollough’s vocals really shine on this number, especially during the chorus when he hits a higher register. His vocal’s simple and quiet beauty nearly breaks your heart.
Finally, Steph drives it home with the beautiful and compassionate “Hang the Moon.” Here, the loss of innocence and realization that a mother isn’t perfect is very affecting. “Did you cry every time she was human?” “Does she know that you hide in the saddest place?” Sean’s tender echo on the chorus is touching. Please give this one a close and careful listen. The songwriting handles its delicate topic with an incredibly deft and gentle touch.
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, knoxville 520.com


"Who needs 'big time' with friends, fans right here?"

The folk music quartet is flush with friends and loaded with family. The band's sophomore CD, "Nature Hatin' Blues," is ready for release, and the band members know that, in Knoxville, they'll have local radio support and a waiting audience.

"It makes you forget about 'making it' or going for the big time or whatever," says Lonetone Steph Gunnoe. "You have everything you need right here."
Sitting in their South Knoxville home early in the afternoon, married couple Sean McCullough and Steph Gunnoe share tea and keep an eye on their 4-year-old daughter, Willa. Forrest and Julia, Sean's two children from a previous marriage, are still at school.
McCullough and Gunnoe make up the songwriting and vocal core of the Lonetones, with percussionist Phil Pollard and bassist Maria Williams rounding out the group.
The band's self-released debut album, "Useful," became a word-of-mouth favorite in folk circles, earning the act fans across the country.
McCullough and Gunnoe met at a show at Barley's through a mutual friend and ended the night playing music with other musicians at the house Gunnoe and friends were renting.
"It started with playing music," says Gunnoe. "That was our excuse to hang out together.
Gunnoe, a native of Charleston, W.Va., had to go to the other side of the country to reconnect with the Appalachian music she'd grown up hearing.
Gunnoe moved to Olympia, Wash., to attend Evergreen State College.
The town was filled with musicians in the Riot Grrrl scene, but Gunnoe, despite playing some rock music, didn't quite fit in.
"There were also a whole lot of people (in Olympia) who loved Appalachian music," she says. "I had always been embarrassed by it, so that was very empowering to me."
She formed a folk duo and then moved back to Charleston while looking for a college at which to study to become a nurse practitioner. When she visited Knoxville in 1999 and heard radio station WDVX-FM and visited the Smokies, she looked no further and enrolled at the University of Tennessee.
McCullough moved to Knoxville to attend UT in 1985, and after graduation began teaching at the university. McCullough, who had grown up in Minnesota and Middle Tennessee, didn't start performing until he began doing children's programs in Knoxville.
In the early 1990s, he was a regular at open-mike nights in the UT area, performing solo and then with the band Evergreen Street.
Yet when McCullough met Gunnoe they clicked both musically and romantically.
The duo's first gig together was a live performance on WDVX. It became the first of many.
"I was immediately drawn to what a good songwriter she is, and I was afraid I couldn't keep up!" says McCullough. "It was one of those things where each brings the other a nice balance. Steph has a rawness about her music - not unlike that Riot Grrrl/punk thing. And I was more pop-oriented."
Gunnoe agrees. She says that her husband's greater knowledge of chords and his ability to play several instruments has helped her songs. McCullough, meanwhile, draws from his wife's dedication to melody and her insistence on keeping things simple.
Much of the duo's creative work is done during that magic hour when the kids have gone to bed.
The duo's congruous relationship comes out in the music. While their songs are written separately, a Gunnoe song will benefit from a McCullough guitar solo or mandolin riff, and a McCullough song will be finessed with a Gunnoe harmony.
The only confusion about the group is when audience members see banjos and mandolins and expect the group to be bluegrass.
"They'll watch our hands, and when we don't play something super-fast, they'll just walk away," says McCullough with a laugh.
"The wives tend to like us," says Gunnoe. "The ones who are there making the potato salad. They'll come out and say, 'Well, we liked that!' "

- Wayne Bledsoe, Knoxville News Sentinel


"Featured in article about Knoxville Music"

The LoneTones specialize in a singular approach to Appalachian pop that's almost unimaginably sweet and certain to please even the most discerning fan of Americana, alt-country and old-time string ensembles. Soulful songwriting and elegant arrangements abound on the band's two full-lengths, especially 2006's "Nature Hatin' Blues," which at moments evokes the sense of an Appalachian Belle and Sebastian — only better. The band is composed of Steph Gunnoe on guitar and vocals, Sean McCollough on guitar, mandolin, banjo and vocals, bass player Maria Williams, Steve Corrigan on drums and glockenspiel, and drummer emeritus Phil Pollard. This group is a true musical gem. - msn.com


Discography

Nature Hatin' Blues (CD released Nov. 2006)

"The Soil We Grew Up In" featured on "Greetings From Knoxville" - a Knoxville News Sentinel compilation of Knoxville music.

Useful (CD released 2004)

"Glad I Stayed" appears on Shut Eye Records' sampler The United State of Americana

Photos

Bio

A popular Knoxville, Tennessee band, The Lonetones have garnered regional attention for their unique style, literate songwriting, inspiring live shows and fine recordings.

They were recently featured in an msn.com article about Knoxville music, opened for Sam Bush (receiving a standing ovation as the opening act!), performed at the Knoxville 4th of July Celebration with The Amazing Rhythm Aces and continue to attract attention for their recordings (see press section for album reviews).

Accolades for "Nature Hatin' Blues"
• Album featured on NPR's All Songs Considered
• Top Ten Album of 2006, KDHX Uncontrollable Urge show with boBEE Sweet.
• "The Soil We Grew Up In" featured on "Greetings From Knoxville" - a Knoxville News Sentinel compilation of Knoxville music.
• "The Soil We Grew Up In" appears in the independent film "Lily."

Accolades for "Useful":
• Album featured on NPR’s All Songs Considered.
• DYI Top-12 Pick, Performing Songwriter Magazine.
• “Glad I Stayed” appeared on Shut-Eye Records’ Americana Sampler.
• “Little Thing” and other songs received radio play across the country.

Notable Performances (see calendar on our regular website for more):
• Opening act for Sam Bush
• Appeared with the Amazing Rhythm Aces
• Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival
• Americana Crossroads Live Radio Performance
• The Atlantis Music Conference, Atlanta GA
• The Blue Bird Café in Nashville, TN
• WDVX Camperfest and Blue Plate Special Radio Show

The LoneTone's most recent album, Nature Hatin' Blues, is dedicated to hometowns and misfits everywhere, mountains and people who fight to save them, the soil we grew up in…. To a certain degree, the dedication sums up both the album and the band. The music is deeply rooted in the mountains of Appalachia, but is also subject to the ruminations of those who try to escape their steep mountain walls.

The band's instrumentation looks to some degree like that of a bluegrass or old-time string band. But that's not exactly it. The songs at times sound ancient and worn. But there's more to it than a simple rehashing of the past. Influenced heavily by more modern sounds from rock, the folk revival, singer-songwriters, alternative country and even emo, the band plays their own kind of original mountain music.

The seeds for the band were planted back to 2001 when West Virginian Steph Gunnoe began performing informally with Knoxville singer-songwriter Sean McCollough. The duo’s sound fused Gunnoe’s mountain singing style and literate song-writing with McCollough’s rich vocal accompaniment and multi-instrumental arrangements. They began to perform publicly over the next couple of years. In 2003 they added bass and drums and started calling themselves The Lonetones. They released their debut album Useful that same year and their music began to take on new shape with the fuller instrumentation.

The sound of the band has evolved, first adding bass and drums, then the occasional glockenspiel or vibe part and now accordion and keys. But Gunnoe and McCollough continue to enjoy their musical compatability. In a recent interview, McCollough noted that from the beginning “it was one of those things where each brings the other a nice balance. Steph has a rawness about her music…. I was more pop-oriented." The synergy has not gone unnoticed by others.

Debra Dylan of knoxville520.com declared: “I 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.” Wayne Bledsoe of the Knoxville News Sentinel wrote that “[t]he duo's congruous relationship comes out in the music. While their songs are written separately, a Gunnoe song will benefit from a McCollough guitar solo or mandolin riff, and a McCollough song will be finessed with a Gunnoe harmony.”

While performing mostly original music, the band still performs a few traditional tunes and likes to add some unusual covers such as ones by Magnetic Fields, Blondie or a Peruvian Waltz. They make their home in Knoxville, TN amidst a thriving music scene.

Steph Gunnoe grew up in Charleston, West Virginia. Her mom sang opera and her dad played the banjo. In high school she listened to the Who and the Velvet Underground, rejecting much of the music from her own roots. But when she was 19, she moved to the North West where she discovered Hazel Dickens and other sounds from home. She learned to play the guitar and started writing songs in a style more akin to the music from the coalfields than to that of the thriving grunge scene that surrounded her. In 1998 Gunnoe moved back to Charleston where she continued to write and play. A Charleston compilation CD of local songwriters featured two of her songs including the title track, “Glad I Stayed.” In 1999 she moved to Knoxville, Tennessee where she still resides. (See the Maryville Daily Times article on our press/revie