The Avett Brothers: Carrying on the legacy of Bruce Springsteen

I remember being 12 and sneaking into my older brothers’ room they shared to listen to the live version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing in the Street” from the Live 1975/85 box set on cassette. I wore that tape out while being overwhelmed even as a kid by the direct and visceral emotions that the song and this fellow Bruce Springsteen ignited within me. I didn’t attend church but I instinctively knew that what I was hearing was a faith based music, something I could hold on to and believe in. I grasped hard to his music and have been along for the ride ever since.

During Springsteen’s induction of Bob Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame he mentioned the burden of being labeled, “the next Bob Dylan,” a moniker with a weight of expectation that crushed many promising young singer songwriters. If you keep up with Starcasm you know my love for Dylan but I’ve always wondered who would be the next Springsteen? His career is unique, an open relationship with his fans infused with large live audiences and mass popularity. Springsteen’s music is so of him that covering one of his songs that he’s already recorded is a hard hard thing to do because there’s so much belief in what he’s transmitting.

In my musical maturation I’ve found artists I admire and enjoy as much if not more; The aforementioned Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Lucinda Williams but none of them quite inhabit what I’ll call that “belief music” space that intertwines with mass commercial appeal that Bruce occupies. Well that was the case until I came across the following video of a band featuring two brothers from my birth state of North Carolina performing a cover of Bruce’s “Glory Days.”

Since catching that clip from the great Springsteen cover video series “Hangin’ Out On E Street” The Avett Brothers, Scott and Seth Avett along with bassist Bob Crawford and cello player Joe Kwon have overtaken my listening space, bullying the jukebox as The Bouncing Souls sing. While watching their raucous cover I remembered good friends telling me, “Man you gotta listen to and see the Avett Brothers, I know you’ll love them.” They were right of course and that one clip lead me to a simple search on YouTube where I watched and listened to a new video for a song called “Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise.”

There I was, a much older man with the same kind of feelings I had back when I first heard Springsteen sing, “some guys come home from work and wash up and go racin’ in the streets.” Belief music right in my face that struck like lightning:

“If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected decide what to be and go be it. There was a dream and one day I could see it. Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it. And there was a kid with a head full of doubt so I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out”

Sold, right then and there and ever since I’ve been consuming everything Avett Brothers I can. The most recent purchase was the band’s only official live DVD called The Avett Brothers Live Volume 3. It flat knocked me out and hurt me as well because I’ve not had the opportunity to see them live yet and the already converted always say, “You have to see these guys live.” Funny, I’ve been telling folks the same about Springsteen my whole adult life.

Part of the DVD, which culls performances from a 2009 show in Charlotte, N.C., features interviews with fans in attendance ranging in all ages talking about their very personal relationship with the bearded ones’ music. I laughed because these people had that same light in their eye and the same need to express how important it was to them that I, as a Springsteen fan, have always had.

When I listen I believe in what these boys sing, more importantly I trust that they believe it – that’s the juice:

“Always remember, there is nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name.”

A pillar of the Springsteen lore is a review that his now long time manager and close friend Jon Landau made way back in the day after seeing Bruce and his band destroy a small club.  In that review he wrote, “I’ve seen rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” No pressure there right!?! Well I’m not sure about rock and roll because the definition of what that means varies but I can say with conviction that if anyone can carry the “belief music” torch that seemed to be Springsteen’s alone that I’ve heard, it’s Seth and Scott Avett from Concord, North Carolina.

Sometimes, hell usually, fans can say it better and I came across the following post by “Toronto Fan” on The Avett Brother’s official fan forum:

Well, I was lucky enough to go last night to the premiere screening of Bruce Springsteen’s documentary The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town at the Toronto International Film Festival. I would highly recommend the movie to anyone who loves Bruce or is a music lover in general.

One part of the film got me thinking a lot about the Avett Brothers…Bruce took 3 years to make the Darkness album, which was after his mamoth success of Born To Run. Aside from legal battles with his former manager that prevented him from recording, he lamented that despite his success, he felt tremendously conflicted over the fact that the closer he got to his dream of success and recognition, the further away he became from the roots of his upbringing that made him who he had become.

I began to think that despite the tremendous differences in the music business now and then, if I and Love and You is analagous to Bruce’s Born To Run (it is their first big hit and has lead for them to become more exposed than ever before), perhaps their follow up is Scott and Seth’s Darkness. I hope thay maintain their consciousness of where they came from and what endears the fans to them as they reach for higher heights of fame. It seems like so far they are on the right track.

I think they’re on the right track too, being of the place they’re from and remembering the importance of what that means. Here’s one more video for the song “The Weight of Lies” from their album Emotionalism:

“So when you run make sure you run to something and not away from” – The Avett Brothers

I can’t wait to see The Avett Brothers live for the first time.

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