Monday, February 28, 2011

Helplessness Blues





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Monday, February 14, 2011

Grammy Performances

I know what you're thinking: a folk blog is not first place to go when one wants to read about performances at the Grammy's.   A night of celebrating the world's most popular artists rarely includes prominent folk or folk rock acts (unless you were lucky enough to grow up in the 60's-early 70's when the likes of Paul Simon, the Byrds, or CSNY were "mainstream").  However, this annual edition of the Grammy's did manage to bring to light two of today's best folk acts, The Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons

I found out a few weeks ago that these two bands would be performing at the Grammys and I was somewhat surprised.  I have been following the Avett Brothers for a while now, and they have consistently been a band that I can enjoy listening to.  Hailing from North Carolina, both Scott and Seth have an aptitude for creating vocal harmonies (this is an extremely quick way to garner my musical interest).  There's something about being genetically identical that just makes a band's harmonies sound tighter.  It has been proven time and time again by bands like the Beach Boys, the Everly Brothers, the Bee Gees, etc.  The Avett Brothers are no exception.  Anyway, I saw them live over the summer at the Newport Folk Festival, and they were clearly one of the standouts of the festival with their energetic performance.  Not only did they leave everything on the stage, but they were virtually flawless in reproducing the intricate harmonies and melodies produced on their albums.  Needless to say, I was very excited to see them perform for one of the largest audiences possible.

Mumford and Sons are from West London.  They haven't been around for that long, maybe a few years.  However, while listening to them, you get the impression that they've been together for a lot longer than their age might indicate.  Mumford and Sons is another great band that I wish would achieve a more "mainstream" audience.  Don't get me wrong, Mumford already has a large and devoted fan base, much like the Avett Brothers, but I felt it was about time that the fans of Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga understand that there is a world of talent beyond what you typically hear on the radio.  In many cases, talents such as Mumford and Avett are vastly under-appreciated in the World of Beiber, auto-tune, and over-produced music.

And to top it off, both bands would back Bob Dylan for one song.  For those of you that live under a rock, Bob Dylan epitomized the folk revival of the 1960's.  His songs of protest, hardship, and heartbreak made him one of the most recognizable faces (and voices)  of past decades.  His contributions to the folk scene are worthy of entire websites, so I won't go that much further and hope to cover said contributions in a single paragraph.

Enough background information.  Getting straight to the point, these two acts stole the show, even if they only played a few minutes each.  Considering mainstream music is highly comprised of solo acts who can virtually hit "play" on a computer and proceed to sing along, Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers were more than a breath of fresh air.  They were a reminder of a day when bands received proper recognition for their ability to construct every single aspect of their music.  They were a reminder of a day when a group of musicians can get on stage and physically re-create every sound they recorded without any computer enhancement.  They were a reminder of a day when the crafts of harmony and melody came solely from the artist.

Excuse my nostalgia for an era I was never a part of, but popular music these days is so incredibly lacking compared to previous decades.  But, that's another topic for another day.  In a night dedicated to the celebration of music, my hat is tipped to those who were responsible for getting two real musical "artists" and not "performers" on stage, even for as brief a time as it might have been.  I'd be hard-pressed to say those performances will start a musical invasion of the mainstream, but I can always hope.

Note: Once videos of these performances are made available on youtube, I will edit this post to include them.