Entries in The Avett Brothers (4)


Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith Reawaken Songs for a New Generation

 We had the pleasure of seeing "Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith” live at the Neptune Theater Thursday night. Avett and Mayfield played to a completely sold out and (although seated) a very enthusiastic crowd. 

It's a humbling experience to watch musicians of a higher caliber completely dedicate an album and performance to another musician. There is no doubt that Smith’s songs were performed with the respect and sincere admiration that it deserved. This tour seems to be a theriputic release as the two musicians find solace and kinship through a great artist that has come before them. 

Avett is best known for his punchy, alt. folk band with brother Scott, The Avett Brothers, and Mayfield
drips 90s despair rock like a candle with a flame that burns too hot. It's an odd pairing on paper, not 
Avett and Mayfield, but Avett, Mayfield and Smith. Mayfield comes closest to Smith lyrically in her 
own right, and as Avett sings some of the more painful of Smith's lyrics, there is still that familiar 
bouncy feel in his voice that has made his main act a success.
But there is beauty on this record. Mayfield's voice on "Angel in the Snow" is starkly beautiful, distant 
and haunting. Avett's arrangements, stripping down Smith's more orchestrated tracks, leaving Avett 
alone with his guitar, allows him to embody the loneliness Smith thrived in creatively. If there is a fault 
with the record is that it seems that Avett can't get out from behind that Avett Brothers sound. "Baby 
Britain" comes across like one of the brother's more mellow numbers as Avett plucks and strums, his 
voice carrying the familiar North Carolinian melody. Not that he shouldn't be allowed to put his own 
spin on Smith's back catalogue of notable hits and fan favorites. In fact, it's a good problem to have. 
For the listener who doesn't know Smith's work, but puts on anything featuring an Avett singing, this 
album of covers serves as a good introduction to an artist whose career ended far too soon.
It's hard to judge an album of covers from an artist with a following and reverence as strong as Smith's. 
Recording the album is a bold move, one that has taken Mayfield and Avett three years to complete. 
The premise alone may have some critics balk at the idea. However, it's a pleasure to hear Smith's 
lyrics in a fresh medium. Avett and Mayfield took Smith's work down more of a folk path and the 
songs fit the genre well. "Pitseleh" has both Mayfield and Avett taking lead vocals accompanied by a 
lonely guitar, banjo and piano. "Let's Get Lost," a fan favorite, stays close to its source material, but 
Mayfield's vocal accompaniment makes the track. Her voice, low and sultry on this record, is hard 
to ignore. Smith's songs operate in a type of vacuum of singer-songwriter genius; many have tried 
to capture Smith's brilliance in their own music and come up short. Avett and Mayfield, on the other 
hand, play the songs they love to listen to and perform them as they would one of their own. It's nice to 
give the songs a chance to breathe.
"Memory Lane" is a fitting choice to close out the record. It features some the most orchestrated 
arrangements. Avett's voice gives the isolating lyrics an uplifting feel and its evident Avett feels some 
kinship to the words. One could argue, with his new found fame, Avett would rather be back, settled 
into that little house, strumming a guitar and playing the songs that move him. The album is a good 
listen for the Smith fan-base and a great companion record to one's Avett collection. But its greatest 
achievement is reawakening Smith's songs from a long slumber.


Words by Craig Brown

Photos//words by Adam Richert


The Avett Brothers - Key Arena - Seattle, WA

The Pacific Northwest was lucky enough to get a second helping of The Avett Brothers this year, which included a high-energy show at Seattle's Key Arena on October 18. On the heels of the October 15 release date of their new album Magpie and the Dandelion, the band gave fans a few new gems - including Vanity, Bring Your Love to Me, and the album's first single Another is Waiting. Foot stomping commenced during crowd pleasers such as Laundry Room and The Fall. And die- hard fans would list Salvation Song and Backwards with Time as the highlights of the night.

Recently the Bros & Co teamed up with Seattle's own Chris Cornell to treat television viewers to a special performance of Vanity on adoring fan Jimmy Fallon's late night talk show. On October 30, the North Carolinians will rock the stage for a Live on Letterman webcast, and will do a regular show performance after. With Magpie and the Dandelion debuting at #5 on the Billboard Top 200, and #3 on iTunes top albums, it seems we will be seeing a lot more of the genre-defying brothers in the future. 

Words // Ashley Couey: Web Site and facebook

Photos // Adam Richert


Newport Folk Festival - 2013 Slide Show

The Newport Folk Festival does a great job of recognizing its illustrious history without being burdened by it. The times are always a-changing, and the festival has done a masterful job of adapting along with it.

In fact, some of the weekend’s best attended and most memorable acts hardly belong within the folk genre. Like Bombino, whose guitar playing wizardry conjures up sandstorms of hypnotic grooves; or the UK-punk rock of Frank Turner; or Trombone Shorty, who has successfully weaponized jazz and funk for mass consumption.

 The festival has broken new wave artists and expanded bands’ audiences, audiences that now stretch multiple generations. And each year sell-out crowds come to experience music that push buttons, blur borders and even inspire change - and that’s what folk music, and the Festival, is all about.

Enjoy some memorable moments from NFF 2013 in this slide show!

Photos // Adam Richert

Words // Photos // Brian Hodge


Newport Folk Festival 2010 Highlights

The Newport Folk Festival always fosters a sense of community -- both among the fans that relax on abutting blankets at the Fort Stage, as well as among the bands that are welcomed, if not encouraged, to mingle backstage and collaborate onstage.  This year's festival took that sense of community and collaboration to a new level with numerous artists, including Andrew Bird, Jim James, The Swell Season and headliners John Prine and Levon Helm, inviting others to share their stage.

Another high-water mark for Newport this year was the eclecticism of the lineup, a trademark of the festival in the Jay Sweet-era.  Sure, there were folk traditionalists like Ritchie Havens, Tim O'Brien and, of course, John Prine.  However, the lineup was rounded out by established songsmiths Jim James and Andrew Bird; up-and-coming artists like A.A. Bondy, Dawes, Daniel Martin Moore and Ben Sollee, The Felice Brothers, O'Death and The Low Anthem.  Nneka brought a refreshingly unique sound to the festival with her blend of Afro-hip-hop rhythms and a social/political message.  Calexico and The David Wax Museum took slightly different takes on Mexican/Southwest-inspired Americana, while Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Levon Helm and Elvis Perkins in Dearland brought varying degrees of New Orleans jazz to the festival.  It was an eclectic and successful mix, proving that the term "folk music" is a broad umbrella.

Here's my attempt at narrowing down a weekend of great memories to a handful of highlights:

Dawes:  I've been a fan of Dawes since I saw them open for Delta Spirit at the Middle East a couple years ago, and while their record North Hills is fantastic, it's still the live show that reminds me how fantastic this band is.  Their headlining set at Great Scott earlier this year was a revelation - the energy was off the charts from the start.  Dawes' set at Newport got off to a slower start - that isn't to say the performance wasn't great, but it took longer to win over a crowd that was undoubtedly less familiar with the music.  However, by the end of the show they had the entire crowd on their feet, singing along as Taylor Goldsmith stood at center stage, arm around his father as they both sang "I've got a feeling it's gonna be alright".  An amazing performance to close out the Quad stage on Saturday.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band:
  I ducked out a few minutes early from The Avett Brothers because I know that Preservation Hall Jazz Band was a must-see, but to be honest, I didn't exactly know what to expect.  When I arrived at the Harbour Stage I found Jim James on stage, crooning along with a group of New Orleans jazz legends that looked like kids on Christmas morning.  The smiles from all parties were infectious, but the music moreso - Blue Yodel No. 9 with Jim James was downright nasty (in the best way possible).  Before the set was done Andrew Bird, Ben Sollee and Tao Rodriguez Seeger had also joined the band and the crowd was on its feet, dancing and singing along.  I was grinning from ear to ear - my favorite performance of the weekend.


The Avett Brothers:
  I've only seen the Avett Brothers a handful of times, but I left each of those shows thinking that they were, hands down, the best band on the planet.  Last year the Avett Brothers came to Newport on the cusp of releasing their major label debut I And Love And You.  Their set was great, but not the catharsis that a normal Avetts show is - maybe it was the timeslot, or the fact that most of the crowd wasn't familiar with the new songs - or maybe it was just me.  But this year was completely different.  The Avetts put on an absolutely frenetic show, and the crowd at the normally laid-back Fort Stage was as active as I saw all weekend.  They mixed trademark ballads and banjo-punk stomps and kept the crowd on their feet.  They reminded me what a great band they are.  


The David Wax Museum:
  I feel like I'm overdoing it a bit on the David Wax Museum love lately, but I can't help it - they're just too good.  To recap, the band entered a contest run by Magic Hat to win a slot at Newport.  From over 150 entries, they were selected as one of three finalists.  They won with over 3,000 votes - a testament to the number of fans they've collected through rigorous touring.  Obviously a big opportunity for the band to reach a larger audience, but it's what they did with that opportunity that made them one of the highlights of the festival for me - they absolutely played their hearts out.  Playing a mix of Mexican-influenced songs with eclectic instrumentation - accordion, jarana and donkey jawbone are featured prominently - they slowly won over the large crowd at the Quad Stage.  The clear turning point was when, halfway through the show, the band left the stage, trading the comfort of amplification for the intimacy of playing acoustically amongst the crowd.  The gospel-influenced "Let Me Rest" from 2009's Carpenter Bird showcased the band's harmonies, but it was "Unfruitful", an accordion and fiddle-led stomper from the band's upcoming album, that really brought the house down.  As the band climbed back on stage to finish their set the roar from the crowd was deafening - the had come to Newport as underdogs and conquered.