The new Avett Brothers album….the good, the bad, and the ugly!

When I first starting really getting into the Avett Brothers a few years ago in 2009, with the release of I and Love and You, I couldn’t get enough of them. And I was lucky, because there was so much other material to start collecting and listening to! I discovered some of my favorite songs on that release (such as The Perfect Space, Laundry Room, Tin Man…ok, there is a lot I like about it!!). But I also heard people say that it was too ‘polished’ for the Avetts. That they preferred them more raw. I started going back in their discography and started to understand what long time fans meant. The Avett Brothers have such strong lyric writing capacities and many of those lyrics are weighed in heavy emotions. Those feelings and emotions come out best when the songs are being performed live without restraint. And that is something very different than a finely tuned album recording. There is room for both, but if you only listen to an Avetts album, then you are depriving yourself of the magical experience that is the Avett Brothers. If you can’t see them live and in person, you can still get the feelings by listening to their one of their (3) live albums or even watching them perform on tv (or on their Live, Volume 3 dvd).

Their newest album, The Carpenter, does not disappoint on the lyrical front. They are masters with their words and ideas. I would love to be a fly on the wall during a writing session! Initially, I was a little disappointed that the boot stomping sing-alongs were missing from this album. But that was only initially. The Carpenter feels like a much more serious, sentimental release. It seems to follow in the foot steps of The Gleam (2006) and The Second Gleam (2008) releases. Those EPs are softer and played live less, for the most part. They seem more private, if that is possible. That said, some of my very favorite Avett brothers songs are on the Gleams — Murder in the City (I was there for this performance!!) and When I Drink (the inspiration for the name of this blog!!), for example. When listening to The Carpenter album, you can tell that they have grown up, gotten married, had kids (some of them!), and watched as one of their young offspring fought cancer. They are more mature and more aware that life is more than ‘just playing music’. Just listen to this song, A Fathers First Spring, that mentions Scott’s eldest daughter, Eleanor.

I never lived til I lived in your light
And my heart never beat like it does at the sight
Of you baby blue, God blessed your life.
I do not live ‘less I live in your life.
I do not live ‘less I live in your life.

I think I’ve covered the good and bad (I mean, it really isn’t bad…just a little disappointment at first!)…now for the ugly. Recently, Scott and Seth Avett performed a little of their single, Live and Die, off the new album, for a Gap commercial. They have also teamed up with Target and when you buy the cd there, you get two bonus songs. And I admit, a part of me cringed a little when I heard about it. I mean, the Avett Brothers don’t exactly scream Gap to me…but I do buy Gap clothes, so I can’t fault them there! Another part of me was elated. That part of me has learned a lot about the music industry over the past 9 months and I understand what that type of exposure can mean for an artist. There are a lot of “fans” yelling sell-out in the direction of the brothers. But I really think that is unfair. These days, there are very few musicians who are out there making millions. The majority are barely scraping by and sacrificing a lot along the way, especially if they have families. If the Gap ad and the Target deal mean that the Avett Brothers can spend a little more time at home, cherishing those moments that they have learned are precious and irreplaceable, then I applaud them. And I hope other real fans will feel the same way…yes, we all love their music and would prefer that they play in our backyard everyday, but they are also real people with real families and friends who need them! It’s easy to yell sell-out, but let’s look deeper into the situation to understand it a little better.

Here is the Gap ad…and come on, they are true to themselves and this ad is just too adorable!!

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New Avett Brothers: we have a date & one track!

It hasn’t been that long since The Avett Brothers have released an album (I And Love And You came out in 2009), but to the dedicated, loyal fans who can never have too much of the brothers it seems like an eternity (okay, okay…I am speaking from some very personal experience!). Originally, the word on the street that the new album, The Carpenter, was to come out in the winter of 2012. But, it has been delayed due to the fact the producer, Rick Rubin, changed labels and brought The Avetts with him.

Finally, we have a date and even get to hear a single off the release!! Woohoo!! Happy Tuesday…heck, Happy June, everyone! The big release date is 77 days away (that’s Sept 11 for those who don’t want to do the math). And here is the link to the new song, Live and Die,  that is currently on NPR. Now, if you will excuse me, I am off to buy tickets to another TAB show…it’s been almost 8 months since I have seen them live and that is just not acceptable!!

The Avetts were recently on Conan O’Brien, performing one of my favorites, Murder in the City. It is not the boot stomping, string-breaking song that they have become known for, but it is an absolutely beautful song with striking lyrics.

Listen to the new song, Live and Die.

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hot off the presses…do not miss this!!!

If you like the sounds and energy of Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers, then you do NOT want to miss one of the best new bands of this year when they are in town this spring. It has just been announced that The Head And The Heart will be playing at Headliners on March 6th. The Head And The Heart has been on my radar for a while and I fell in love the very first time I heard them on a youtube video. This is the band that I made my hubby travel down to Nashville to see when they OPENED for someone else last year! They are that good!!!

I am not the only one who thinks so, even though I knew about them before they were even signed to a major label! A lot of people are noticing. Dave Matthews noticed and had them open for him in Washington. My Morning Jacket noticed and had THATH open for them on their European leg of the tour as well as sing with them on a couple songs for their 2011 Christmas album! They are also on numerous ‘best of 2011’ lists…. #5 in Paste Magazine’s Best of 2011, The Best Music of 2011 in The Huffington Post, #21 in The Best Albums of 2011 on Amazon.com and #1 on Kentuckyseven.se’s list of the best (they are Swedish music bloggers, who happen to love Kentucky…how awesome is that?!).

Their performances are so powerful that they bring me to tears….even when it is just on TV!! The energy and enthusiasm that they bring to the stage is unparalleled. I could go on and on, but watch this and decide for yourself. I promise it will be a night you won’t forget. Don’t miss the opportunity to see one of the hottest upcoming bands in a small venue! Warning: You WILL see me singing and dancing my ass off, so prepare yourself!!

this makes me smile…

Ah, the joys of parenthood – you all know what I am taking about.  The joy of going out somewhere nice…with spit-up down your back. The joy of sitting down to enjoy the game…and having the baby scream the whole time. The joy of the anticipated weekend plans…that get cancelled because the little one is sick. The joy of a celebratory work dinner…hampered by knowing that you are missing your little guy’s big game. The joy of waiting in an hour long line at the DMV…wait, that is a joy because you are alone!! 😉

I can say all this because we know the good parts of parenthood–the hugs, the kisses, the ‘I wuv ew’.  But it is the ups and downs that bond all parents.  You can instantly start a conversation with any other parent…it is like trading war stories! Sometimes it is hard to think of sharing such an intimate thing with someone famous, but if we are all parents, then its all shared!  And that is what makes me love this video so much.  Crackerfarm has put out some of the best videos of The Avett Brothers, but this one is tops! I love that Scott is trying to play at hymn at his home, yet his daughter has drastically different ideas.  She may be the only girl I know who would forcibly try to stop Scott from performing! 😉  And I love the look on his face and the laughter in his voice…it’s like he is saying, ‘Really?! I can’t just sneak one song in?!” Yes, Scott…we have all been there before.  Fortunately, a camera wasn’t around.  Enjoy this sweet, funny video on this Monday morning!

my heart’s full of sorrow…

As parents, we do crazy things to protect our kids.  Think about it…putting big cushiony foam around anything  that might have a sharp corner…putting locks on everything from the toilet to the oven (those darn things can be tricky!!)…gating them in (or maybe out!!). That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but we all do it because we love our children so much and we just want them to be safe from harm.  And we see it as our job to keep them safe.  So, how do we survive when something threatens our ability to keep our babies safe and we have absolutely no control over the situation?

A few years ago, unfortunately, hubby and I had a front row seat to see how a family lives through and survives a parent’s worst nightmare: childhood cancer. Our dear friends were ‘lucky’ in that the leukemia that their 2-year-old was diagnosed with was well-known and therefore the treatment was straightforward. But, that didn’t mean it was easy. It was 2 years of chemo, 2 years of worrying that a cold or other illness could cause serious complications, 2 years of limited exposure to other kids, 2 years of an unbalanced life, 2 years of fear.  Again, they were ‘lucky’ and their daughter is now a happy, normal kid who has a smile that lights up a room!

My heart broke this morning when a member of my favorite group announced that his 22 month old daughter had cancer.  And, unfortunately, they aren’t ‘lucky’ because only 100 children in the US are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year, meaning that they probably don’t know much about it.  The group is The Avett Brothers and the member is Bob Crawford.  There had been some chatter on their fan boards recently because Bob had missed a few shows, but the official announcement came from Bob in the form of a letter to the fans on http://www.avettbrothers.com :

One month ago today my wife found our 22 month old daughter, Hallie, in her crib having a seizure. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital where an MRI revealed a brain tumor approximately one quarter of the size of her brain.

Surgeons were able to remove 90% of the tumor and decided to stop there as her vital signs were unsteady. Following surgery she suffered a stroke. Her condition was critical for the next several days as her brain continued to swell. In an attempt to save her remaining good brain she was placed in a coma for five days.

Since being removed from the coma, Hallie has undergone a second brain surgery, has been waking up, and is doing her best to recover quickly so she get ready for the next phase of her fight against cancer.

The tumor is a Grade 3 Ependymoma. This is a very rare, but deadly brain tumor that effects roughly 100 children a year in the United States. We do not know what Hallie’s next step is in her treatment. Her situation is very fluid and there are a number of complicating factors, but we do know that she is fighting hard every day.

My wife Melanie and I would like to thank everyone for their love, care, and support during the most difficult time in our lives. I would like to thank everyone for their understanding of the gravity of this situation and ask for respect to our privacy. When people ask us what they can do to help, we ask them to pray for Hallie’s recovery. We feel that God has already worked
miracles through Hallie and we pray they keep coming.
Someday I will return to the stage with my brothers. When that will be I can not say. We are truly living one day at a time.

Thank you again for your love and support for my family during this time.

I look forward to seeing you all again soon.
Bob Crawford

It is hard to find the words to describe how it feels to read that.  It makes me realize that we are pretty lucky with the health of our kids. And where previously, I had been a little worked up about a scheduled in-patient clean-out and colonoscopy for my 3-year-old (because of blood in his stools), I now understand how truly minor that is compared with what Bob and his little Hallie are going through.  My thoughts and prayers will be the entire Crawford & Avett families along with their friends.  It must be such a trying time for all of them.

Another great group of brothers, The Barr Brothers, sing it better than I could say it:

Lord, I just can’t keep from crying sometime

When my heart’s full of sorrow & my eye’s filled with tear,

I just can’t keep from crying sometime

And if you like what you hear from the brothers from Rhode Island, check out another song, Beggar In The Morning,  from their newly-released, self titled album.

Clear the Calendar!!!

It’s always like a kick in the pants when you discover this great new group, only to find out that they were just in your city playing live. And you missed it.  Arg! It’s time to dig into these groups, get your sitters and get ready to enjoy a little adult time out of the house!! All of these shows are at Headliners. And if you plan on going, let me know.  There is nothing better than sharing good music with great friends!!!

  • Sept. 22 – Ten out of Tenn:  This is a group of 10 musicians from Tennessee (go figure!), including Katie Herzig and Gabe Dixon.  According to their website, there are a collective of incredibly talented friends who, as individual artists, have released over thirty albums, had song placements in countless television programs & films and shared the stage with musicians such as REM, Sarah McLachlan and John Mayer. It was also just announced that they will be doing an in-store at ear X-tacy at 5:30pm the same night. 
  • Sept 30 – Pokey Lafarge with Maiden Raido and Whiskey Bent Valley Boys: This isn’t Pokey’s first time in Louisville this year and I know people are glad to have him back! I missed him last time, but hope to make up for it this time around.  Watching and listening to him is like stepping back in time.  He just has this classic bluesy-western feeling with killer harmonica! And he dresses the part!! Plus, opening for him that night is none other than the local girls of Maiden Radio.  Julia Purcell, Cheyenne Marie Mize and Joan Shelley make up the trio who has a new release called Lullabies with songs originally recorded for Julia’s daughter.  It is produced by Daniel Martin Moore on Ol Kentuck Records.
  • Oct. 6 – G. Love & Special Sauce with The Apache Relay: I am very excited to see both of these groups!! G.Love’s newest solo release, Fixin’ to Die, came out in February 2011 and was produced and backed by The Avett Brothers. Their sound is unique…a mix of hip-hop, blues and their own sound! See for yourself:      I think this will be a high energy show, since I’ve heard that The Apache Relay goes all out in their shows! I love the lyrics on this is song… “home is not places, it is love”. 

That’s all for now, but you will also want to get sitters for Oct.14 (Ben Sollee), Oct. 16 (Trombone Shorty), Oct. 20 (Dawes), Oct.27 (road trip to Lexington for The Avett Brothers). Don’t worry, I will be previewing all of those shows, too.  Just didn’t want to overwhelm you (okay, okay…it was me getting overwhelmed and consumed with finding the perfect videos to post 😉 ).

when bad things happen….

How do you explain the unimaginable…to a child? There are things in this world that are very hard to make sense of for an adult, but when you add a curious child into the equation things just got complicated.  We spend so much time trying to shelter our young children from anything and everything that could be upsetting to them. It is hard to know when it is okay to introduce the idea that life isn’t always going to be perfect.  There are things that happen every day that can’t be explained.  Like when a 2 year old gets diagnosed with leukemia, like when a young pawpaw is taken before he can see his namesake grow up, like when an alcoholic decides to make himself at home–in our house!

And of course, those devastating events on Sept. 11, 2001.  It is hard to believe that it has already been 10 years since that terrorist attack.  But at the same time, it feels like yesterday that I was working at Bellarmine University, in my friend’s office when our work study came in and told us what was going on.  Time is funny like that….it felt like I was waiting for years to hear that my uncle was uncharacteristically late to work that morning causing him to be outside of the World Trade Center towers when the planes it.  In reality, we waited a few hours to hear about his glorious tardiness.

My oldest is almost 9yrs and always very curious (hmm…sounds like a Curious George book, doesn’t it??).  C is also a very thoughtful young man…he really takes things in and processes them.  We have had many late night talks because he can’t fall asleep since something is weighing on his mind.  I knew discussing 9/11 with him would be difficult. While I was thinking about it, “Salvation Song” by The Avett Brothers came on. Damn…their lyrics are just incredible.  I am pretty sure they have a song that would fit everything situation in life. Anyway….this song just struck me as the answer in helping my son process the bad things in life. Especially the chorus:

We came for salvation

We came for family

We came for all that’s good that’s how we’ll walk away

We came to break the bad

We came to cheer the sad

We came to leave behind the world a better way

We cannot change what other people’s choices, how they act or what they do.  We cannot control the health of our friends and family in certain circumstances. We can only take charge of what we do and how we act. It is our responsibility to take positive actions.  On this desperately sad and overwhelming anniversary weekend, I hope we can all keep in mind that there are things we can do in everyday life to ease someone else’s pain or just brighten their day.  And if we all did that, maybe we really could break the bad, cheer the sad and leave behind the world in a better way.

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