album reviews

the Avett Brothers
Live, Volume 3
American Recordings / Columbia/Sony (2010)

Kindred spirits: Wilco, Old Crow Medicine Show.

North Carolina pop folkies the Avett Brothers have interspersed live albums among their studio releases for their entire decade-long career. Their latest offering, "Live, Volume 3," was recorded in the summer of 2009, just before their first major-label studio release.

There is no major-label polish to this live show. The group's stage banter consists mostly of expressions of adoration toward the crowd, which may have seemed genuine in person but come across here as formulaic and repetitive. Some moments in the show just seem bizarre out of context: Seth Avett inexplicably restarts "The Ballad of Love and Hate" after one verse for no other reason than, as he says, "I'm so happy right now I can barely stand it."

The music is equally unrefined, but that's always been part of the Avetts' charm. The sloppy energy of "I Killed Sally's Lover" escalates to near chaos as the brothers play at an uncontrollable speed. At the end of "Distraction #74," the lead vocal line bounces between brothers, capturing both the division in the lyrics and the obvious fun the musicians are having on stage.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 18 February 2011
.: Live, Volume 3 on