Our dad often tells fans of The Avett Brothers that he is equally proud of our willingness to bale hay or feed the cows with him as he is of our career in music. It is a genuine affirmation, spoken often and with the storytelling flair of a learned yet grounded North Carolinian man of 70 (think Andy Griffith had he spent 35 years welding on Interstate bridges in the southern sun). He is proud of all three of us - the third being our sister, Bonnie. A woman possessing a creative mind, a lovely voice, and a kind heart, she has enthusiastically dedicated much of her life to the study and education of dance (while raising three children of her own). As a proud parent does, dad speaks about us often and with anyone who will listen (strangers possibly preferred). Years ago, this was a source of great exasperation for me. I could not understand or appreciate our dad’s motivation or his seemingly infinite willingness to initiate conversations about us, to build us up, to champion us. This was, of course, before I had a son of my own. Now I, the last of my siblings to join the joyful and bleary-eyed ranks of parenthood, gratefully see why this has been (and continues to be) the case. Having a child is a little like falling in love, in its specialness and in its universal ability to shift the meaning of life. I now understand, as my brother, sister, and parents have for years, that when that interior levee breaks and the reservoir of untapped love fills your heart, you are introduced immediately and absolutely to your new favorite subject of conversation.
Jim Avett is a natural-born storyteller. You shouldn’t expect to have a seat at the dining room table with the man and have a conversation relegated to small talk and light commenting on current events. It’s more probable (by a long shot) that between loading forkfuls of green beans, you’ll seamlessly find yourself learning about a World War II submarine battle and the subsequent shark attack. Or a Victorian era train conductor. Or the little known backstory about the real life of the DiCaprio-played character in The Revenant . Our dad reads a lot, and his knowledge paired with a great wealth of life experience makes him a person that people like to listen to. The man can be hilarious, but there is a certain pace, depth, and gravity present in his manner of imparting information that is rare. This quality has increasingly shone through in his singing over the last decade. Texturally and spiritually, it fits like a glove over the weathered and beautiful hand of the traditional hymn.
Gospel music is more than a genre with a unifying theme. In our case, it is a vehicle for spending time together. And the longer we are on this earth, the more we realize how important it is to carve out some of that precious time for each other. Our parents make these efforts often, with obvious love and devoted interest in what is happening in our lives. Truth be told, dad probably cared just as much about getting all of us together as he did about the album we were making. The recordings were certainly made with a lot of care, as we all genuinely love the old gospel songs, but I’m willing to bet my father would’ve recorded any kind of album if it meant a few sunny afternoons with all three of his children. This is a sentiment that we all can thankfully grasp now…with great personal clarity.
Jim Avett was raised by a soft-spoken Methodist minister and a dedicated mother with (very) above average skills when seated at the piano. Between their living influence, our parents love and care, and a glowing sense of community provided by our small town church, this record was an inevitability.
For my siblings and me, the prospect of recording an album together gave us an opportunity to add something to the family photo album…a document so our children and their own will always have another little connection to their kin (a link in the chain, as Dad says). On this occasion, it is the sound we made with our father when we sang together in the living room.
This piece you are reading now was written for the purpose of announcing an album. I’m writing it so folks will know the album exists and so they may hear it and hopefully enjoy it. Maybe it sells a few copies. Maybe it doesn’t. But something else is possible here; perhaps this could be a reminder to you, whoever you are and however you came to lay your eyes on these words, that you have an opportunity. Have you set up your camera and filmed a conversation with your mother, your father, your kids, your great-aunt? Could you, this week, ask an elder of your own blood what it was like for them growing up? What’s their favorite Christmas memory? What was their town like? How did they first fall in love? Imagine what it will be like for family members to see a hundred years from now... or two hundred! You have in your hands the ability to gift a priceless treasure to loved ones you will never meet but love just the same. These kinds of efforts are made so the little ones, a long time from now, will have an easier path to familial strength, and a bridge to knowing who and where they are from. Maybe you could sing some songs together...
We are all part of a family. What could you give to yours?
-Seth Avett, Spring 2017