MUSIC REVIEW | The Avett Brothers – Country Was (2002)

Avett Bros

Folk, country, a little light rock. The Avett Brothers have brought their gentle spin to many a gentle genre, and more often than not, they make it work. I’ve been a fan since 2009’s I and Love and You. By ‘fan’, I mean have I’ve given one or two listens to every album that’s come since then, liked them all, but reverted back to repeated listens of I and Love and You instead of persisting with the newer stuff. And I’ve never gone through their back catalogue. Until now, with Country Was.

It seems like they didn’t take putting the word ‘Country’ in the album’s title lightly. Because Pretty Girl From Matthews might be the most countrified I’ve ever heard the brothers Avett. I’m used to Scott Avett’s banjo from later albums, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it quite as a-pluckin’ as this before. Same with the rich harmonies. I know the band has it in them, it just has an extra country spit and polish here.

That hey bail twang only increases on Jenny and the Summer Day and A Lot of Moving. They layer on the yodel like vocals and down home flavour to the kind levels that would seem cornball or sarcastic if they didn’t pull it off so well.

Replace the banjo with a honky tonk piano, and you get something that fits what came before, but adds a new level too, with November Blue. Relying even more than the others on precise, soaring harmonies, it keeps the momentum of Country Was on its steady build, making each song a little bigger than the last.

When the brothers decide it’s time for a good ol’ fashioned hootnanny, they ratchet up the tempo and the energy with Old Wyom. Warning, listening to this song may make you wear overalls with no shirt underneath, and dance like a mountain man while chewing on a piece of hey and blowing into a moonshine jug.

Listening to Country Was, it makes me appreciate the wider range of genres the Avett Brothers would tackle in the albums that followed, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like this one. Hearing an older album with the hindsight and context that comes with having heard that band’s more recent output can sometimes make me appreciate that earlier work, even if technically, it’s not as good.

While Country Was isn’t as fully formed or complex as something like I and Love and You, it’s still stands on its own two feet, showing the obvious potential the Avett Brothers had back then, and that they have more than lived up to today.

The Avett Brothers

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