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Avett Brothers turn in yet another high energy gig

House of Blues, Boston, October 15, 2010

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

In pulling Webster's, the phrase road warriors certainly could be put next to the name "The Avett Brothers." The country, bluegrass, boisterous group may have just played a bit south of here two months ago at the Folk Fest in Newport, R.I., but here they were back at it before a full house and just about the same amount of musical muscle.

The Avetts are touring behind their third live set ("Live, Volume 3), and they're still a better group live, of course, than some recording of a performance (although one certainly gets the sense of what these guys are about on their brand new release).

A few things remain intact about an Avetts show. Brothers Scott and Seth Avett (Seth, by the way, was shorn of his long hair and beard. A mustache was all that remained of the mountain man look) will trade off vocals and instruments, sometimes within the same song. It's not clear how they decide who sings what (although Scott tends to be more the shouter/screamer, although he certainly had no problem going softer either) as both are capable of going at an ultra high level and turn quickly to quieter segments.

They started with the low-key, countryish Living of Love before heading into Earl Scruggs' Blue Ridge Mountain Blues. They alternated between their well-known songs like January Wedding, And It Spread and Shame along with material from varying parts of their career.

The Avetts closed with a big one-two punch to the regular set of I and Love and You and a sterling effort of Kick Drum Heart, but one of the beauties of the Avett Brothers is that they change the songs up a bit. It's not Dylanesque at all in terms of being unrecognizable, but it proved far more enjoyable doing so than merely replicating the silver platter.

Bassist Bob Crawford also is an official member of the Avetts, and he like cellist Joe Kwon and drummer Jay Edwards added a lot to the live sound. The group employed a very good sound mix where you actually can hear all the instruments as if they do really mater. One wondered why Kwon never received a singing role because here, as at other Avetts shows, he is singing the words throughout (Crawford barely sang backing vocals). The Avetts made very smart use of all the skills of their players.

For a group on the road as much as they are, The Avett Brothers have never ever failed to be less than enthusiastic, energetic and engaging. It would be easy to expect that, but should not be taken for granted. The Avetts pulled off the combo to make for a lot of great music.

Paleface opened with a generally engaging 45-minute stint. After several major label releases in the early 1990s, Paleface led a quiet career, mainly self-releasing his music. He's now on the same label, Ramseur, that once was home to the Avetts and just released "One Big Party" earlier this week.

Paleface inhabits a folkie, rootsy musical sound with a guttural vocal delivery and offbeat style. His voice wasn't always the prettiest, and at least one song (Styrofoam Cheeseburger) sounded downright silly.

But others - The Show is on the Road - worked quite well. Paleface benefits mightily from drummer Monica "Mo" Samalot. She sings well - better than Paleface - and kept a steady beat.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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