Last week I mentioned Southern rock as one of the things I’d spurned in my youthful rejection of my native culture, only to rediscover and appreciate it as an adult. A similarly inclined reader wrote in to recommend the Avett Brothers, a band out of North Carolina (not rock, per se, but quite Southern in a folky bluegrassy poppy way). As it happened, I’d just gotten their new album, Emotionalism.
I am officially obsessed. I can’t stop listening to the damn thing.
You can read the band’s wikipedia page for more info — they’ve been around for a while but are really blowing up right now. I’m seeing them in concert in April; I’ll report back.
I have huge respect for both guys. They’re good singers, great songwriters, socially engaged, got their heads on straight, etc. But damn do they have terrible legacies among rock singers.
People in my age cohort will remember when Pearl Jam debuted amidst the grunge scene (and was inaccurately lumped into it). Vedder’s deep, ragged baritone was always the band’s secret weapon. But then came The Vedder Clones, singers who sang deep because it’s the only register they could manage. They lacked Vedder’s range and feeling, and reduced “grunge voice” to a single tone and mannerism. Think … Creed. Unfortunately that style of singing is still incredibly popular on the rock charts.
Then there was Billie Joe’s nasal whining — his attempt to mimic his ’70s Brit punk heroes. I was never a fan, but soon Armstrong clones swarmed all over MTV, doing their whiny angst-ridden teen boy shtick over bad pop passing as bad punk. To this day they dominate the one-note “emo” scene. It’s yet another means of singing for people who don’t sing very well — all attitude, no technique.
Between Vedder clones and Armstrong clones, you’ve pretty much covered 90% of modern rock radio. Kill me.
This gets to one of the things I find so appealing about the Avett Brothers: their pure, keening tenors. There’s nothing growled or distorted, no affected mannerisms. It’s just good singing, not hidden behind fuzz or over-amped instrumentation, not passed through software filters, just clearly recorded, live in studio. And the harmonies — sweet, sweet harmonies. Damn I love me some harmonies.
Anyway, there’s a classicism about it that hits my sweet spot. This either means that classicism is making a comeback and we’re going to see a new trend toward good singing … or I’m incredibly old and you kids should get off my lawn. I said get off my lawn!