Best of 2013: Top 5 Avett Brothers Moments

Okay, so, my goal over the next two weeks is to be disciplined in writing small pieces each day, most of which will be along the theme of “Best of 2013”.  I’m a sucker for end-of-year top ten lists; hours wasted dissecting these pieces from Time, Paste, even EW.com.  So it’s time I do my own.

And since the Avett Brothers have dominated my musical tastes in 2013, what better way to start than by giving you my five top Avett Brothers moments of my year:

5. Playing the opening track of their new album Magpie and the Dandelion on NPR First Listen while at work.  It was my first time hearing it.  The song is called “Open-Ended Life”, and there’s a moment in the middle where suddenly Scott Avett sings “Let’s find something new to talk about/I’m tired of talkin’ bout myself…” and this killer blues harmonica kicks in.  When that came on the speakers, people in the room just started smiling and I wanted to jump and applaud.  It’s beautiful.

4. Singing “Salvation Song” and “Just a Closer Walk” with Doug Penman at my 40th Birthday And One Month party.  It was an honour to play these songs that mean a lot to me with a dear, talented friend.  (And later I received a banjo and am figuring out how to play these songs on it as well!)

3. In Concert: My top 5.  I went to see the Avett Brothers play live for the first time back in March.  They typically play around 23 songs a night, and the setlist varies greatly night to night, usually covering songs from any or every album.  I had a list of 5 top songs I hoped they sang; two of them were the main two songs from their last album, so they were almost givens, but the other three were up in the air.  Not only did they play all 5, but they played the three or four I would have listed afterwards as well.  For the record, those 5 were, “I and Love and You,” “Talk on Indolence”, “The Ballad of Love and Hate”, “Live or Die” and “Down with the Shine.”  “The Ballad of Love and Hate” was an especially good performance, with Seth just singing the heck out a couple of the lines after being distracted by someone in the audience’s comment.  You can watch that performance here:

2. Discovering the Covers: I sincerely wish that the Avett Brothers would release an album of the covers they’ve done live.  It would be a fantastic album.  It started with discovering their rendition of the hymn “Just a Closer Walk With Me” on youtube as I prepared for the gig.  Amazing.  Further searching revealed a cover from a concert several years ago: “Cigarettes and Whiskey”, a song I had only previously heard on the Peter Sellers episode of The Muppet Show.  The album would also have to include their cover of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”.  Then at the concert itself, they did a few covers, including an obscure Buck Owens song called “Reno Lament” and an old folk song called “The Coo Coo Song”.  Hours could be wasted on youtube just listening to their covers.

1. And the number one Avett Brothers moment of the year: Discovering their lyrics live!  As you may have picked up from me saying this numerous times, their concert was a transcendent experience for me.  Deeply and truly.  And one thing about it that stood out was the way lyrics jumped out and hit me during the show.  I find live concerts usually the worst place to hear and absorb lyrics, but for some reason, they stood out and spoke to me at this show.  Whether it be “When nothing is owed or deserved or expected/And your life’s doesn’t change by the man that’s elected/When you’re loved by someone you’re never rejected/Decide what to be and go be it” from “Head Full of Doubt”, or most of ‘The Perfect Space”, the ending bits of “Laundry Room”, or the ending of “Shame” (I used to say just let ’em fall/It didn’t bother me at all/I couldn’t help them; now I can), the lyrics just hit me where I live and made the concert an all-the-more powerful experience.

So there you have it.  Still to come: best films and TV shows of the year; songs; albums; worship albums; concerts; anything else I can think of!  Stay tuned.

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