Avett Brothers | The Gleam III | (Lona Vista- American)
4 1/2 out of Five Stars
Continuing the series of the bootleg-like releases initiated prior to their major label signing and subsequent success, the Avett Brothers return to their homegrown origins with The Gleam III, the third release in that striking seminal series. It’s filled with tender trappings, and while that was always an essential element early on, it was somewhat diminished when the Avetts expanded their line-up and emphasized stadium-sized anthems to fill their abundant set lists.
Here however, they go back to basics, with brothers Scott and Seth providing the bulk of the instrumentation, with only stand-up bassist Bob Crawford providing additional embellishment in reserve. As a result, The Gleam III is sparsely arranged, amplified only by earnest emotion, simple sincerity and undiminished sentiment. That’s evident with nearly every song, although “Should’ve Spent the Day With My Family” finds an especially poignant perspective. It expresses the anguish felt when the day begins with news that there’s been yet another school shooting, this one nearby. The tragedy resonates throughout the day, causing moments of stark reflection and deep despair as the hours wear on. As the lyrics maintain, expressing those thoughts in song becomes increasingly frustrating and futile. “I can’t get anything right when everything is wrong,”the singer concedes as it comes to a close.
Other offerings seek a similar kind of solace. “Prison To Heaven” shares the story of a prisoner determined to risk it all to find his freedom. “Victory,” “Women Like You” and “The Fire” are impassioned love songs, each so well expressed and touchingly told they might cause a listener to swipe away a tear. So too, the honesty and intent expressed throughout this album, even as abbreviated as it is, allows practically every track to resonate in a similarly striking way. These are songs driven simply by a basic need to emote, regardless of formality or form. It’s the Avetts doing what they’ve always done so exceptionally — that is, to simply share their humanity even at the cost of sacrificing verve for vulnerability.
As its name implies, The Gleam III is a beacon of light, especially for those who feel the fear, isolation and uncertainty that intrudes so increasingly in everyday life. And what a welcome gleam it is…