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Brothers Seth (vocals and guitar) and Scott (vocals, banjo and drums) Avett, and Bob Crawford (bass, violin and vocals) and Joe Kwon (cello, saw and vocals) are known for rowdy, authentic Americana roots, energetic alt-country music, and a healthy dose of bluegrass and folk music. Their eighth studio album, last year’s Magpie and the Dandelion (stream it below), produced by the legendary Rick Rubin, “is chock full of tracks that show the Avett Brothers are (very wisely) growing their sound, while remaining true to their core principles and what listeners like about them to begin with,” said American Songwriter. “It’s clear with this latest effort that the Avett Brothers don’t care much for recent trends and don’t chase after something they think their fans want them to be, but instead is a pure taste of raw musical expression, and the resulting effort is that each track is better than the next.” They hail from North Carolina, but the Avett Brothers (above, performing “Laundry Room” for Live on Letterman ) are coming to Brooklyn to rock Barclays Center tomorrow night. As an added bonus, the like-minded Old Crow Medicine Show kick off the night.
The Avett Brothers – Terminal 5 – May 9, 2012
With unending energy and plenty of rowdy, country-music-tinged moments, the Avett Brothers put on a remarkable show for a sold-out audience last night at Terminal 5. Their sound, which ranged from AM radio to markedly twangy, never fell flat to any of the dancing fans in the venue. And this was no post–I and Love and You bandwagon crowd. It was several thousand unabashed people unafraid to get their hoedown on.
The two-brother band, from North Carolina, started the two-hour set with peppier offerings like “Tin Man” and “The Traveling Song,” but quickly made full use of the rest of their expanded lineup by pumping out heavy doses of cello and upright bass to go along with Scott Avett’s banjo. The songs grew louder and wilder, leading to some of the best moments of the night during “At the Beach,” which slowly wound down and transitioned into darkness for “Pretty Girl from Cedar Lane.”
But as lively as the set often turned, it was the quietest few songs that really hit home. Scott and Seth Avett took turns at the front of the stage, guitars unplugged, to sing into a single microphone. The eerily still crowd watched Scott perform the painfully personal “If I Get Murdered in the City,” followed by Seth doing “The Ballad of Love and Hate.” Before the full band returned, third full-time member Bob Crawford joined them for the traditional gospel song “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” another anachronistic moment the band’s screaming fans embraced with open arms and wild cheers. —Sean O’Kane
(The Avett Brothers play Rumsey Playfield on 9/18.)
Photos courtesy of Dino Perrucci | dinoperrucciphotography.com
Folk-influenced singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield has teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Seth Avett, one of the lead singers and founding members of the North Carolina folk four-piece the Avett Brothers, to pay tribute to the beloved, departed Elliott Smith’s work with Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith, due out next week. NPR calls Smith “the most erudite, sophisticated songwriter of his generation.” And furthermore, “Though the accompaniment is sparse, each of these 12 covers dwells in an atmosphere that’s somehow linked to (or at least glances in the direction of) the Smith original. Mayfield and Avett didn’t seek to reinvent Smith’s songs. They simply want to honor them, and this collection is governed, from one whispered note to the next, by humility.” “Everyone who’s an Elliott Smith fan takes the lyrics and relates them to themselves,” says Mayfield. “When Seth is singing, I forget for a moment that they’re Elliott Smith songs, and when I’m singing them it’s the same thing. I’m singing the lyrics as if it were my own song.” See Mayfield and Avett performing together—playing highlights from their joint album and their individual catalogs—tomorrow at Town Hall.
Deftly layering three-part harmonies over a mix of bluegrass, roots, rock and Americana, childhood friends Griffin Sherry (guitar and vocals), Max Davis (banjo and vocals) and Sean McCarthy (bass and vocals) formed the Ghost of Paul Revere six years ago in Buxton, Maine. Ever since, they’ve been winning over fans one show at a time with their fiery, foot-stomping holler-folk music, earning comparisons to Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers in the process. The band released their second full-length, Monarch (stream it below)—which deals with turning heartbreak into metamorphosis—last month. “The gift of Monarch lies in its honest simplicity. It appeals to the sunshine that lives in most of us and dares to try to brighten the gray skies that hold others hostage,” says American Blues Scene. “It succeeds in lifting up all those it reaches out to.” But be proactive: Reach out to the Ghost of Paul Revere (above, performing “Montreal”) yourself when they play Rough Trade NYC on Saturday night. Jersey rock quartet Wyland open the show.
Zach Chance (vocals and piano) and Jonathan Clay (vocals and guitar) met as teens in Texas and bonded over a wide array of music. Eventually, each launched a solo singer-songwriter career, sometimes harmonizing together while on tour. Thanks to the enthusiastic crowd response to their combined vocals, Chance and Clay formed Jamestown Revival six years ago, making Southern-tinged Americana featuring their harmonies. Their first album, Utah (stream it below), burst onto the scene in 2014, offering “up a big, bright, and mellifluous set of meticulously honed, radio-ready, country-folk confections that blend tight Everly/Avett Brothers harmonies with breezy West Coast melodies that invoke names like the Lumineers, Blitzen Trapper, Band of Horses and Belle Brigade,” according to AllMusic. Jamestown Revival (above, performing “Love Is a Burden” live in studio for KUTX FM) returned last year with their sophomore effort, The Education of a Wandering Man (stream it below), which PopMatters called “an upbeat road album filled with rich harmonies.” Going on to add: “While Jamestown Revival’s harmonies are the constant that provides cohesion, it’s their melding of influences that makes The Education of a Wandering Man stand out in a sea of post-Black Crowes country-rock outfits.” See Jamestown Revival play live on Sunday at Brooklyn Steel. Maine holler-folk four-piece Ghost of Paul Revere open the show.
Making rowdy, old-timey bluegrass- and folk-inspired music that’s earned them comparisons to the Avett Brothers, the Leverett, Mass., five-piece Parsonsfield—Chris Freeman (vocals and banjo), Antonio Alcorn (mandolin), Harrison “Whale” Goodale (bass), Erik Hischmann (drums) and Max Shakun (guitar)—have a brand-new album, Blooming Through the Black, coming out this Friday. And on Wednesday at Mercury Lounge, Parsonsfield (above, performing “Weeds or Wildflowers”) celebrate its release and kick off a new tour. Vaudeveillian folk-punk sextet Bella’s Bartok open the show.
A musician’s musician, California native Blake Mills is a talented dude, ably working as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and composer. And even if you don’t know his name (yet), plenty of big names in music do. “Eric Clapton recently called him ‘the last guitarist I heard that I thought was phenomenal.’ The producer Don Was says he is ‘one of those rare musicians who come along once in a generation,’” according to the New York Times. Mills founded his first band, the Dawes precursor Simon Dawes, with high school friend Taylor Goldsmith. When the group broke up, Mills went on to play in Jenny Lewis’s band and to tour with Band of Horses, Fiona Apple and Lucinda Williams, while managing to find time to do session work with the likes of the Avett Brothers, Norah Jones, Kid Rock, Neil Diamond and Lana Del Rey. As a means to drum up more session work, Mills (above, performing “Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me” for Public Radio International) put out his debut solo album, Break Mirrors (stream it below), in 2010, which led to him scoring producing work with acts like Conor Oberst, Alabama Shakes and Sky Ferreira. His sophomore effort, Heigh Ho (stream it below), arrived last year to some impressive reviews: “It moves through musical eras and genres without ever sounding out of place, too clever, or at all clumsy. Mills is as centered as a songwriter as he is a player and producer. There is nothing extra here and that’s as it should be. Heigh Ho puts on offer much of what he’s learned these past four years, and displays it all with acumen and openness,” per AllMusic. Currently winding down an East Coast swing, Blake Mills plays Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night. Local jazz guitarist Julian Lage opens the show.
Dave Simonett (vocals and gutar), Erik Berry (mandolin), Dave Carroll (banjo and vocals), Tim Saxhaug (bass and vocals) and Ryan Young (fiddle and vocals) have been putting a modern, thrashing, turned-up twist on bluegrass music, as Trampled by Turtles, for more than a decade. And like the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons, this Duluth, Minn., five-piece employs folkie and Americana instruments—plus layered harmonies—to get their point across, sometimes doing it a little bit louder. They released their first album, Songs from a Ghost Town (stream it below), in 2004, and Trampled by Turtles (above, playing “Are You Behind the Shining Star” on Late Show with David Letterman) have been steadily playing high-energy live shows ever since. Their seventh LP, Wild Animals (stream it below), out this past July, finds them in as fine form as ever. AllMusic says, “On their seventh long-player, Duluth’s acoustic troubadours Trampled by Turtles continue to push the outer limits of folk and bluegrass playing light against darkness, delivering one of their most thoughtful and downtempo albums to date.” Currently crisscrossing North America, their tour brings them to Terminal 5 tomorrow night.
Thanks to their modern take on throwback folk—and their use of a banjo—Bear’s Den have garnered comparisons to Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers. And although they’ve only released a few singles and EPs, hitting the road in support of bands like Of Monsters and Men and Daughter, has already earned the young London three-piece—Andrew Davie (vocals and guitar), Joey Haynes (banjo and guitar) and Kev Jones (drums and Communion cofounder with Ben Lovett)—a growing reputation as a band not to miss. Following on the heels of last year’s Agape (stream it below), Bear’s Den (above, doing “Don’t Let the Sun Steal You Away” for Sideshow Alley TV) put out a second EP, Without/Within (stream it below), earlier this year. “The songs were in many ways our most personal yet and also our most ambitious sonically,” Davies told Rolling Stone. A proper full-length is due later this year, but on the heels of playing the esteemed Newport Folk Fest this past weekend, Bear’s Den headline The Bowery Ballroom tomorrow night. Little Racer, a local four-piece, open the show
Mumford & Sons – Pier A Park – August 1, 2012
During the CMJ Music Marathon in October 2009, Mumford & Sons played Mercury Lounge and Music Hall of Williamsburg. It was still almost four months before their smash debut LP, Sigh No More, came out here, but the crowd already knew most of the words. And then as the album was ringing up accolades and awards a year after its U.S. release, the London four-piece lit up the Grammys with a lively performance of “The Cave” and an absolutely rollicking version of “Maggie’s Farm” alongside Dylan and the Avett Brothers.
From there, Mumford & Sons became road warriors and their popularity bloomed as they worked their way up to big stages at big festivals like Bonnaroo, Coachella and Glastonbury. Along the way, they fleshed out and road-tested new material, which will come in the form of Babel in late September. With that comes a new tour, and while Mumford & Sons got their start playing the kind of instruments and music that are often heard while gathered round a fire, last night at Pier A Park in Hoboken, they did so for thousands assembled along the banks of the Hudson River.
As the remains of a lovely sunset lingered in front of the stage and the lights of Manhattan twinkled behind it, Mumford & Sons launched into “Lover’s Eyes,” a new one, and the crowd exulted. “We’re very happy to be playing our first ever gig in New Jersey,” said frontman Marcus Mumford. It was also the band’s first show of the tour, and they didn’t shy away from the new songs—playing “I Will Wait,” “Lover of the Light,” “Whispers in the Dark” and “Ghosts That We Knew” in addition to the opener—which sounded different than the first album’s tunes: bigger, more electrified and amplified (and a lot more drums).
Their previous time through, Mumford & Sons played Terminal 5, but last night they had no trouble riling up the big crowd in the large grassy venue with their increasingly bigger sound. Witness the scattered groups of people, arms aloft, jumping up and down together, lustily singing along to the likes of “Little Lion Man,” “Roll Away Your Stone” and “Dust Bowl Dance” at a volume usually reserved for alone time in the shower or a car. Mumford & Sons do things in a big way; so a four-song encore followed their set: “Winter Winds” on the heels of a horn-section instrumental “New York, New York,” fittingly on Sinatra Avenue in Hoboken. And then after Mumford professed his love for America and remarked on having come “a long way from the Mercury Lounge,” they closed with a terrific version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” and “The Cave.” But, of course, it couldn’t end like that. We needed something bigger, and then fireworks, launched from the Hudson, lit up the sky. —R. Zizmor
It was an evening of deceptively simple pleasures at The Bowery Ballroom last night. In the middle slot, Aunt Martha, presently of Brooklyn and an all-male quartet despite the name, began their set with an ambient, dissonant chord but quickly turned into an alt-country affair, with the band trying to bring the genre back to its roots from wherever Wilco has taken it. Still, this was country music dominated by keyboards and drums for the better half of the set. Songs started simply and continued to increase in complexity—like they’d been penned on an acoustic guitar and grown into a dense mosaic of loops and melody. The guitarist and bassist began “Wherever You Want to Go” with their instruments slung over their neck, both playing atmospheric keyboards. Halfway through they both stood up, literally and figuratively, churning out the most rocking part of the set.
The headliner, Delta Rae, got right down to it with a blast of harmonized vocals coming at you like a pipe organ in church. The opening number, “Morning Comes,” had the sextet singing, “The devil’s in the details,” which was true for this band using a simple Americana formula and a well-oiled live show to keep the audience enraptured for the duration. Its was powerful, rocking music that had no electric guitar, no solos, but plenty of energy. Delta Rae joins the New Wave of uplifting Americana marked by the likes of the Avett Brothers and the Head and the Heart, and judging by the crowd’s reaction, they’ll be right there with them soon enough.
The strength of Delta Rae’s set was undoubtedly right in the middle, first playing the dark gospel-esque “Bottom of the River” in a gloriously choreographed, hand-clap and foot-stomp a cappella. Then the band hopped into the middle of the crowd and played and sang without amplification, which they mostly made superfluous all night anyway. The trifecta was hit with a pitch-perfect cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” From there, the rest of the show was gravy: high-energy folk songs, co-ed harmonies, occasional anecdotes to add a personal touch to the songwriting and plenty of percussion to go around. The set closed with “Dance in the Graveyard,” which, in between the vocals and tambourines, summed up Delta Rae’s ethos perfectly. —A. Stein