Editors' pick

The Avett Brothers


Editorial Review

Buzz McClain reviewed a May 2007 performance by the Avett Brothers for The Washington Post:

In the few years since they meandered out of the mountains of North Carolina with their banjos, guitars and a songbook full of tunes about moments in time, the Avett Brothers have become stars, pulling the same demographic of post-college fans that might have known all the words to the Dave Matthews Bands' songs earlier in the decade.

At Friday's performance at the Birchmere, the Avetts -- brothers Scott on banjo and Seth on guitar, with Bob Crawford on upright bass -- were in their element, with a boisterous, beer-waving crowd cheering them on and singing along. The trio responded by opening the show with a breathless 10-minute frenzy of head-shaking thrashing that snapped two banjo strings on two different banjos and one guitar string before the band came up for air.

At their best, which is most of the time, the players create an exciting, ragged, daring noise that bridges post-punk with alternative-country, a nifty trick attempted by few (Hank III comes to mind). At their worst, they're a bit self-indulgent in poignant balladry, and those moments -- comprising most of the songs from their new "Emotionalism" CD -- let the air out of the show.

But when they jam it's difficult to keep one's feet on the floor. Scott recklessly plays five-string banjo, attacking it instead of coaxing; Seth manages to pick out notes amid his furious strumming, but they blend into each other as fast as they emerge. Somehow all of this is sonically intriguing and fresh.