Saturday, April 2, 2011

April 2: The Avett Brothers, "Ten Thousand Words"

Artist: The Avett Brothers
Song: "Ten Thousand Words"
Album: I And Love And You
Year: 2009

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Though there have been many peaks and valleys in terms of the amount of good, original music being created over the entire history of recorded music, one can easily argue that the current music scene is perhaps the most uninspiring and bland of any point in the past century.  Perhaps due to the overuse of technology in studios, perhaps due to the general public being apparently satisfied with low to mediocre talent, there seems to be no end in sight.  Thankfully, there are a small handful of groups that carry the torch for "real" music with authentic talent, and over the past decade, few bands have released as beautiful and moving a brand of music as one finds within the catalog of The Avett Brothers.  Fusing together folk and bluegrass into a soulful sound that often finds its way into some of the finest rock attitude in recent years, The Avett Brothers seem to make a point to not get pigeon-holed into a particular sound, and it is this quest for making music with no boundaries that has earned them one of the most devoted followings in the current music scene.  After releasing a number of albums on smaller labels, the group found themselves in the studio under the watch of mega-label Columbia Records, and thankfully, they managed to avoid the trappings of such an environment.  The resulting album, 2009's I And Love And You, is without question one of the most stunning and absolutely beautiful records of all time, and few songs better represent everything that makes The Avett Brothers so fantastic than the musical brilliance one can experience in their 2009 song, "Ten Thousand Words."

Within the opening moments of "Ten Thousand Words," it becomes evident that while the group may be based around a traditional folk sound, there is something underneath that separates them from this lone classification.  The way in which the guitars of Scott and Seth Avett quickly intertwine with one another is perhaps the most beautiful aspect of the entire song, and the level of soul the two are able to convey through their instruments is truly uncanny.  The passion with which the duo play gives the song such a sense of honesty and authenticity that one cannot help but be drawn in by the sound, and it is this simple, straightforward approach that enables the song to play just as well alone on a quiet evening as it does in a field full of thousands.  As the rest of the band joins in, The Avett Brothers manage to strike the perfect balance, as even with the more full sound, the delicate mood of "Ten Thousand Words" is never damaged.  Bassist Bob Crawford gives the song a very mellow groove, and yet the true perfection on "Ten Thousand Words" can be felt when organ player Jacob Edwards joins in on the song.  It is his contributions that lift the song to an entirely new level, as the swelling chords he plays lend an almost gospel feel to the song, and also give "Ten Thousand Words" a classic sound that has rarely been achieved in recent years.  The way in which the entire band is able to navigate this fragile sense of mood is one of the main reasons they stand so superior to their peers, as few groups from any point in history have been able to match the sound and emotion found on "Ten Thousand Words."

As if their amazing dual-guitar sound was not enough, Scott and Seth Avett are able to make their voices harmonize with similar musical beauty.  Though Seth handles a majority of the leads on "Ten Thousand Words," the harmonies that the two create are without question the finest recorded in decades, and the raw, unaltered feel that can be found in their vocals proves the bliss that can only be found within truly talented musicians.  Much like the music, one can hear the vocals being sung around a campfire as easily as they can be heard in an arena, and this ability to give such an intimate feel to their singing is one of the key factors to the overall impact of "Ten Thousand Words."  Yet it is the final element, the lyrics, that serve as the ideal finishing touch to a song that listeners cannot help but be completely captivated by, even after repeated listenings.  In a similar fashion to the music and singing, the lyrics have a very universal feel to them, and one cannot help but feel the inner struggle that is displayed throughout the song.  It is the fact that the lyrics are so open and unguarded that make them so intriguing, and the artistic trap that haunts so many can be heard when Seth sings, "...and I know ya need me in the next room over, but I am stuck in here all paralyzed...for months I got myself in ruts, too much time spent in mirrors framed in yellow walls..."  Turning the pen on many of the exterior forces of his own world, one would be hard pressed to find a more personal lyric, or absolutely beautiful vocal performance than one finds on "Ten Thousand Words."

Strangely enough, those who knew The Avett Brothers before the release of I And Love And You were likely a bit nervous to hear the resulting album, as it was produced by music legend, Rick Rubin.  Though many may have been concerned that Rubin would alter the delicate sound that defines the band, Rubin did quite the opposite, and helped this sound and mood to be more focused than ever.  One can hear traces of the sound he brought to his previous work with Johnny Cash within the production, and it is albums such as this that show that Rubin understands when to keep his "hands off" a sound that is already perfect.  Quite literally every song on I And Love And You is a fantastic musical accomplishment in its own right, and it has a classic feel to it that sounds as if it could have been just as powerful and fitting if it were released decades earlier.  It is the ability to transcend both musical genres and generations that make The Avett Brothers such a spectacular band, and the unmatched musical beauty they so consistently create is what sets them worlds apart from nearly all of their peers.  Displaying a clear understanding of both their own talents and abilities, as well as how to convey heavy emotion without compromising sonic quality is the key to the sound on I And Love And You, and one can experience everything that makes The Avett Brothers such a phenomenal band within their 2009 masterpiece, "Ten Thousand Words."

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