With over 15 years worth of music to choose from, selecting the best of the best from The Avett Brothers is no easy task. As a die-hard fan, it was difficult to put my personal biases away and select the five songs I believe to be their best as a group. The following list looks at songs that include things like band chemistry and strong/deep lyrics, as well as what songs best showcase the group’s talent. First though, we take a look at the honorable mentions. (In no particular order)
“Murder in the City,” The Second Gleam (2008)
This first one is the hardest one to leave out of the five. To be completely clear, I have the ending of the song tattooed down my entire forearm, so this is my personal favorite song. The lyrics are powerful and a true testament to love within a family. The soothing voice of Scott Avett describing the importance of family can make just about anyone want to pick up the phone and call their parents. The only thing this song lacks is the inclusion of the rest of the band, as it is done solely by Scott, which makes it hard to represent the whole group.
“I And Love And You,” I And Love And You (2010)
The title track to the band’s arguably biggest album finds itself just short of the top five. “I and Love and You” is another song that pulls the emotional strings. This one tackles a common occurrence that we all face, which is moving on to something new in life. The piano baseline stands out throughout the entire song and combines vocals from both Seth and Scott to ease you through till the end when the haunting three words that became hard to say close out the track.
“November Blue,” Country Blue (2002)
This one goes all the way back to the first album from the group. Consisting of the original three members (Scott, Seth, and Bob Crawford), the studio recording of the song was an early sign of what was to come of the group. Strong storytelling and blending vocals lead the group of most notable characteristics of this early track.
These honorable mentions are incredible songs, but the ones to follow take the crown. Here are the top five Avett Brother songs.
Coming in at number five is one of the most commonly played songs at a live show from the group. “Shame” is a phenomenal song that takes a deep look into human emotions and a story of one man’s mistake. The song features an up-and-down tempo despite the name of the track and a nice heavy dose of the banjo. What I love about this song is that tempo that changes throughout the song. The story of shame and regret is oftentimes just like that, and the group’s way of interpreting that into the song makes for a fun performance live.
The next song comes from the band’s latest release, True Sadness. “No Hard Feelings” looks at the idea of enemies and an overview of one’s life. The song runs through scenarios of what can be accomplished in life and what we may think of when death finally catches us. The best part of this song is the ending, as the sound of the Avetts’ and the strings all build up for one final push before the group declares, “I have no enemies.” This powerful song can’t be truly appreciated until heard, so check out this performance from their documentary “May it Last.”
This song, like a lot of Avett Brothers songs, centers around love. This story of young love focuses on a couple who is still sneaking around together and a love that is thought to be worth a lifetime. The story of love takes a heartbreaking turn when we learn that the male from the story loses his girl, as he sings burning lyrics of songs with her name. The amount of emotion you can hear in Scott’s voice as he tells a story of heartbreak, which seems to be caused by the partner’s parents builds the song up till its final jam session. This makes for a fun listen, despite the amount of sadness that the song contains. The song highlights some of my favorite aspects of the group, including their ability to combine deep and meaningful lyrics with a tempo that makes listeners almost forget just the emotions the lyrics present.
Mignonette is arguably my favorite Avett Brothers album, and Swept Away is easily the best song from the album and the group as a whole. On the album, there are two versions of the song. This specific version takes the cake, as it slows the original track down and makes it even more personal than it already is. The sentimental version includes the original three band members, but it adds in Bonnie Avett, the Avett’s sister. It’s a true love song that features each of the three Avetts singing a verse and ends by them joining together to create some of the best harmonies you will ever find in a song. “Swept Away” sets the perfect tone for the album and gives an incredible description of what love can mean. Both versions are great, but the sentimental version is just incredibly done.
At the top of the list is another song from I And Love And You called “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise.” The second single from the album, this song paints a picture of conflict and uses opposites to talk about this (darkness/lightness, wrong/right). The backing symphony fits perfectly behind Scott’s voice, and the song fully fits the mold of an Avett Brothers song: a meaningful message done through strong vocals with a sound that all comes together. This song perfectly exemplifies the group and all of the incredible things it has done for years and will continue to do for years to come.
It’s extremely likely that a few of these songs will find their way to Stephens Lake Park at the 2018 Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival. It takes hearing them live to understand the greatness that they are, so make sure you catch the Avett Brothers this September.