Distraction #74

A few years ago I had a roommate who was an absolutely huge Avett Brothers fan. I am very sad to report I did not take that opportunity to check out their music.

However! I have made up for the lack of The Avett Brothers music in my life since then. I can’t remember when I first actually got into it, but I am very glad I looked a little deeper the last couple of weeks. These guys are fantastic musicians as well as excellent storytellers. I would be so excited to go see one of their shows, everything I’ve heard from their live albums indicates they would be a great band to see perform.

For those that have never heard of The Avett Brothers, let me give you the run down. The band is made up of Scott and Seth Avett as well as Bob Crawford and Joe Kwan. They also have a few other members for live performances. I won’t give you a history of the band here like I have for previous posts. Instead, I’m going to focus on the music.

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This music belongs in the genre of Americana, though it can also be classified as Bluegrass, Folk, Folk Rock, and Indie Folk. For me, Americana music is light and fun, and I feel that reflected in The Avett Brothers songs. They also have some more somber or serious tunes as well, and those are just as good. I can definitely appreciate a band who knows how to balance having ballads and emotional tracks with more uptempo exciting numbers, and The Avett Brothers balance that perfectly.

Their instrumentation is classic Americana most of the time, though they don’t let anything as trivial as genre labels put them in a box. You’ll find that their lyrics are often more similar to alt and indie rock than bluegrass, and their arrangements are fairly a-typical as well. In fact, one of the reasons I love their music so much is that I don’t always know what to expect from them. They always sound like themselves, but their songs don’t sound the same at all; each one of them unique and well-thought out.

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Their most recent popular song “Ain’t No Man” has had quite a bit of radio play, drastically expanding their listener base. It’s a great song and I quite enjoy it, though it has potential to be overplayed so I don’t listen to it much on my own. Another popular song is “I And Love And You” which while distinctly a ballad in it’s tempo and style, also has interesting and visual lyrics that keep you hooked.

The Avett Brothers have many songs I truly enjoy, but none tickled me quite as much as “Distraction #74” which has the most fun vocal arrangement I’ve heard in a long time. These guys are quite good at harmonies and vocal arrangements. Seriously, go listen to that song all the way through. You won’t regret it.

I would like to give you a top 5 songs to listen to by The Avett Brothers but bear with me here. It’s gonna be hard to narrow it down to just 5, so I’ll exclude the songs previously mentioned to thin it out (but those ones are awesome too, go take a listen).

“Kick Drum Heart”

“Satan Pulls The Strings” – this one has a distinctly different instrumentation and is an interesting change of pace.

“Murder In The City”

“Bella Donna”

“Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise”

And just cause I can’t help myself, I’ll add another one:

“Slight Figure Of Speech”

Oh, and here’s a great music video for “Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise” that I really enjoyed.

This is just a really fun band to listen to. They’ve gained a fan for life in me, and I would encourage anyone to listen to their music. Go check them out!

 

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I’ll Fly Away

Before we get started, let me just say that binge listening to a musicians’ entire library of music can be a difficult task at times. I like bluegrass and country, but I guess I must like it better in smaller doses or with more variety because this was one of those times.

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Bluegrass is characterized by its acoustic stringed instruments and its varied roots. I believe it evolved mostly from the Appalachian region with strong ties to the immigrants who settled there. The musical traditions of England, Scotland, and Ireland all heavily influence this genre, and it often seems quite Celtic in nature even when you can hear the southern blues and jazz influence mixed into it. I find it fascinating to have that eclectic mix of influence to create a genre.

But back to the artist at hand.

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Alison Krauss is pretty solidly on the country side of bluegrass as opposed to the Celtic side. She had a country radio hit in the mid 90’s you are probably familiar with: a cover of “When You Say Nothing At All.” I am pretty sure it was played at middle school and high school dances across the country for years.

As for her solo stuff, Alison Krauss makes the kind of music I would expect to hear piped over tinny speakers in a 60-year-old bar in the middle of nowhere somewhere in the Midwest. And I mean that in the best possible way. You know the kind of place: an old Ford or Dodge truck (you can’t really tell which anymore) from the 70’s that used to be a color other than rust permanently sitting outside, a big worn out sign that says something like “Watering Hole” or “Hitchin’ Post” and the same seven regulars that come every week. Not that I’m trying to be stereotypical here, that’s just what comes to my mind. Like this:

If that’s your kind of music, you will love her most recent Album, Windy City, and you should look into it. Tracks I would highlight include “Gentle On My Mind” and “Losing You”. She also did a great version of “You Don’t Know Me”

I will be honest in saying that when I listen to bluegrass I tend to pick bands such as Nickel Creek, The Wailin’ Jennys, or maybe Punch Brothers. I have learned my lesson, and have now added Alison Krauss & Union Station to that list; specifically with Union Station; of all her music that’s what I like best.

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When I started listening to her music for this project, I was a little intimidated by the amount of music she has out there between her solo career and her work with Union Station. As mentioned above, I personally prefer her work outside of the solo career. She recorded an album with Robert Plant in 2007 called Raising Sand that was especially good. My favorite track on that album is “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us”.

Alison Krauss & Union Station’s most recent album together, Paper Airplane, produced in 2011, has some really great tunes on it such as “My Love Follows You Where You Go” and “Bonita And Bill Butler”. But their older stuff deserves to be heard as well. In particular, I would give “The Lucky One” a listen.

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The music I had from Alison Krauss that brought this post about was her contribution to the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie or listened to the soundtrack, but you should. It’s very good, all around fantastic. “Down In The River To Pray” and “I’ll Fly Away” are the key tracks by my spotlighted artist today, but if you check out the soundtrack, listen to “Big Rock Candy Mountain” “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” and “In The Jailhouse Now”

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Enjoy some bluegrass today. It’s calming, and there is something just flat out fun about banjos, fiddles, and dobro style resonator guitars. I must add one of each of those to my instrument collection one day.

Happy listening!