Nothing feels quite like seeing a band live. The energy created by the artist(s) is unmatched by any studio album—if the band is good. The extra inflections in the artists voice bringing that less than perfect quality to your favorite song that makes you feel the band you are listening to is real. Real people with real lives and interesting things to say—they just happen to be brilliant musicians and you get to be an eyewitness.
The energy the Avett Brothers evoke in Live, Vol. 3 relocates you from your kitchen or living room to a seedy, wooden, hole in the wall and brings their “country-styled” lyrics from their mouth to your ears. Or, in this case, you are transported to their hometown of Charlotte, NC for their reunion concert. The depth of this band, consisting of two brothers and a friend is clearly explored by this smattering of songs from earlier albums.
They are all over the spectrum of music with this collection. The term “punkgrass” is commonly used to place their genre. You have Scott Avett on the banjo, Seth Avett on guitar and Bob Crawford on bass. Though the brothers can’t be painted solely on those instruments, they are vocalists—both leading in songs and respectively proficient in banjo, guitar (pretty much anything with strings), piano and drums.
In “Talk On Indolence” you can’t help but be filled with energy throughout the first minute and a half of the song and you find yourself swaying, coming down, yelling along with Scott “because I loved you—I did! I swear I did!” You’re then brought back into an energetic flow of drum beats and honest words telling you to “let go.” Not because we wanted but “because we had to.”
I love the fact that there is an entire intro done to the Ballad of Love and Hate before Seth decides that he has to start again—coming out stronger than the first time. The crowd doesn’t even care—they are singing right along with the lyrics, thrilled at the fact that Seth is avidly interacting. It’s a powerful song even without the idea of the musician, himself, sharing his imperfections and just relating to the crowd out of sheer joy.
Every time you are faced with a ballad on this record to calm you down, you are equally rocked with a rowdy musical experience. Even when a song begins slowly, the familiar sound of a banjo picks in-between heavy lyrics and just keeps you feeling light all the way through ready to see if the song will turn into a jamboree, a ska-fest or just a chilled out moment. The transition of “I and Love and You” to “Shame” to “When I Drink” makes you stop guessing what is going to happen next and just throws you into the music. And then you are on to the next song—clearly a well thought out show. The artistic avenues of this band are endless.
“Murder in the City” just opens up a lovely window into the heads of Scott and Seth with the lyrics, “I wonder which brother is better—which one our parents loved the most.” There is no angst in these series of lines and you envision the harmony in every part of the life they are allowing the audience to be a part of—even their separate vocal inflictions are complimentary. What a beautiful ending to a tragic song, “Always remember there is nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name.” Granted he is talking about his wife but clearly this can be construed to his family in general.
The high energy of the banjo picking always brings the audience out of the simple reveries evoked by the band and movement is inevitable. “I killed Sally’s Lover” and “Paranoia in B Flat Major” are perfect examples—which is probably why their placement is sandwiching “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” and the ever-emotional “The Perfect Space.”
The best part is, as a fan, hearing the songs in a live format can be disappointing. Clearly this band has talent. Their songs aren’t perfect. They are about wanting and heartache and life and growing as people. The band itself is just sincere. The Avett Brothers should be heard live.
This is a great first listen if you haven’t yet discovered the Avett Brothers, but also a delightful addition to any number of albums previously purchased. The Avett Brothers are just infectious, and probably contagious.
Written by Natalie Kontur