The Avett Brothers make popular music in the purest sense. No, I'm not talking about the triangulating, focus-grouped, commercial pablum peddled by your average major label. This is a welcoming, inclusive kind of sound, born of the folk and country traditions of the Avetts' home state of North Carolina, replete with picked-out banjo, stand-up bass and three-part harmonies, and then infused with the brash, unbridled energy of punk and rock.
Their acclaimed fourth studio album, Four Thieves Gone, released in February 2006, is a triumphant example of what modern roots music should be Â– unguarded and genuine personal stories delivered with a sense of humor, a fierce individualism and a sense of perspective rare in the genre. Something Johnny Cash might have really liked.
Despite the limitations of being a trio -- the band is comprised of brothers Scott and Seth Avett on banjo and guitar, and Bob Crawford on bass -- they manage to cover a variety of sonic ground on the album. They jump from heart-stirring, lonesome ballads with a mournful bowed bass and rousing harmonies ("The Lowering Tide") to cheery folk ditties ("The Fall") to explosive, piano-pounding and throat-racking rockers ("Colorshow") with aplomb.
Within the same song, they might stir you with refreshing day-to-day vulnerability, such as in "Talk on Indolence" when Scott Avett sings Â‘I'm a little nervous Â‘bout what you'll think when you see me in my swimming trunks' and then seconds later put your biggest and most troubling fears into words (Â‘I've grown too aware of my mortality to let go and forget Â‘bout dying'). And the vocals likewise meander from the faltering, half-yell of Isaac Brock to the plaintive and self-assured twang of Scott Miller and the V-Roys. But remarkably, despite all of the sonic and psychic variation, the album emerges cogent and flows remarkably smoothly.
Since recording Four Thieves Gone, the band has been busy touring and working on new songs, some of which appeared on a recent EP called The Gleam, with another more wistful and less boisterous batch set for release on a new LP, Emotionalism, due on May 15 on Ramseur Records. It will be their third release in 15 months.
They don't schedule live shows as a way of promoting these albums, they record albums to enable their live show, which is where they thrive. Far from being the type of country or bluegrass act that stands convivially on stage loyally cranking out the album, the Avetts have a facility for connecting with the audience and drawing them into their colorful world. Soon enough, even the most cynical record-store clerk will be stomping and yelling along with them. You can join the fun at Great American Music Hall on Thursday night or down at that festival in the desert this weekend.
The Avett Brothers and Kemo Sabe
Great American Music Hall
Tonight, April 26th at 9 pm
For fans of: The Gourds, The V-Roys, Johnny Cash, Uncle Tupelo, Jonathan Richman, John Prine, Doc Watson, The Del McCoury Band, O'Death, Wilco, The Jayhawks