I cannot sing. At all. I like to sing, and I will bust out a mean duet with Bonnie Raitt when I’m alone in my car, but it’s not anything that should be shared with the world.
Campbell, though, is a different story. I sing to her ALL THE TIME. She’s too young to know better (or at least too young to complain about it) so I sing to her every chance I get. While we dance around the living room, while I’m trying to settle her down, while I’m putting on my makeup.
I’ve made up a few original songs for her. My first hit was titled “Campbell Likes to Pee on Everything”. Soon after came the critically acclaimed follow-up single, “Air Out Your Booty.” Look for my duet with Skrillex at the 2013 Grammys.
The most sung songs, however, are covers. I like to take an existing song and rework the lyrics to make it about her. It all started with my mom (Big Momma), who penned this version of “Hey, Good Lookin’” by Hank Williams:
Hey, good lookin’
whatcha got cookin’
How’s about cookin’ something up with me
I said hey, sweet baby
don’t you say maybe
how’s about keeping steady company
I got a hot rod Saturn and a two-dollar bill
And I know a spot right over the hill
They got swaddle diapers and the dancing is free
If you wanna have fun come along with me
I cover that one all the time, and I don’t give credit to my mom or to Hank. I claim it as my own. I dare them to sue me.
Other favorites include “Campbell Lou” sung to the tune of “Peggy Sue”, “Campbell Girl”, sung to the tune of “Candy Girl”, and the theme song to the TV show The New Girl, in which I replace the word “Jess” with the word “Toots”.
She also hears a lot lalas and mmmmmms and ohohohs from various Avett Brothers, The Head and the Heart and, don’t judge me, New Kids on the Block songs. Because she does, in fact, got the right stuff.
I hope music is important to her as she grows up. I want it to feel like home, the way it does for me. The music I grew up listening to with my parents is really important to me. It’s where I came from. I want the same thing for her. To be the girl at the party who knows all the words to whatever the equivalent of classic rock will be when she’s an adult. To think Josh Ritter and David Gray are as cool as I think Stevie Nicks and Carole King are. To get it. And if offkey versions of “Campbell Girl” (this time to the tune of “Gracie Girl” by Ben Folds) help her get there, I’ll sing it every day.
The internet has been inundating me with awesome videos this week, and today I share them with you. Behold.
Seth Avett sings Billy Joel
I’m not a huge Billy Joel fan, but I am a huge fan of all things Avett and all things cover songs, so this is a win-win for me.
The Swell Season sings Daniel Johnston
Skip ahead about a minute and prepare to be blown away. “Devil Town” is an old song that I only know about because the Bright Eyes version is very important in the Friday Night Lights universe, and the Swell Season is of course amazing. Perfect combination.
The Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”
One of my favorite favorite Beatles’ songs. This is so awesome.
Langhorne Slim and Seth Avett “Sweet Olive Girl”
Bonus Avett video! I’d never heard of Langhorne Slim before watching this video of the two of them singing his song “Sweet Olive Girl”, but I’m pretty sure I’m his new biggest fan. Love his voice.
I was a sophomore in high school when I became a music snob.
There was a guy, John, in my English class that I knew but didn’t really know, you know? You know. One day, out of the blue, he got my number from the class list and called me. He thought we should be friends. We started talking and the conversation quickly came around to music. Favorite bands, favorite songs, stuff we hated. I had recently been gifted the entire Beatles Anthology and was eager to discuss it. We awkwardly talked about how, like, so totally awesome the Beatles are and shared our favorite songs. His was “Strawberry Fields”. Mine was “Yesterday”.
Then it got interesting. Instead of continuing to be an awkward 16-year-old boy fumbling his way through a conversation with a girl he liked, he shifted into teaching mode. He refused to believe that “Yesterday” was really my favorite Beatles song. He told me that I was being a lazy listener, and that I needed to look deeper than the surface and find songs that spoke to me. “Everybody likes ‘Yesterday’”, he told me. “Find the song that’s yours.”
Pretty wise stuff from a dorky high school kid. I don’t remember much else about him, but I really took our conversation that night to heart. I didn’t want to be a lazy listener. So I listened to all the Beatles music I could get my hands on. Over and over and over. I learned that I liked the later Beatles better than the earlier, and that I liked the ones with the crazy lyrics. I discovered songs like “Across the Universe” and “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Something”. I found the songs that were mine.
His advice that night has carried over into other parts of my life, too, particularly my faith. I developed (what I hope is) a healthy skepticism toward the easy. I never wanted to believe something just because someone told me that was how it worked. The problem with operating that way, though, it that it takes work. Paying attention is hard.
But I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. We’re meant to dig deep and search and ask questions. Not because we’re working towards a goal of having all the answers and finally figuring it out but because the journey IS the goal. God honors the questioner and the process of questioning. I’m learning to believe that if we were just meant to glean the highlights and easily define what it means to be a follower of Jesus, then we wouldn’t have the book we have with all its different writers and crazy narratives and confusing contradictions. If it was about finding the right answers, we wouldn’t have a book at all, we’d have a pamphlet. Maybe with some bullet points.
In The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, David Dark puts it like this:
We should take advantage of every chance we have to lose our religion. As wonderful as our religion might feel, it’s never so fresh that we should settle for it. A living religiosity will be sustained by questions, revelations, and a determination to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
We are called to be active participants in our faith, not to sit and watch and consume. Called to make room for new ideas and fresh revelations and challenging people. If we let our beliefs get so set in stone that they can’t be broken, we miss out on something beautiful. We were created with brains and intellect and reasoning skills, and we don’t have to let them go unused. The questions are what cracks our hard hearts and shallow faith. And the cracks are how the light gets in.
So thanks, John Judy, wherever you are. Thanks for taking a chance, thanks for “Only a Northern Song”, and thanks for teaching me to pay attention.
(This post can also be found on GracePointe Conversations, our church’s new blog site. You should read it. There’s lots from Aaron and he’s a smart one.)
This week we are all about Ben Folds. Specifically, the new Lonely Avenue album. Have you guys heard this record? The lyrics are by Nick Hornby and the music is by Ben Folds. I remember hearing a single (“Saskia Hamilton”) when it first came out and not loving it, so I didn’t really listen to the album. But I pulled it up again over the holidays, and haven’t listened to much else since. I’m pretty sure I wake up with one of these songs in my head every day.
I really like the idea that we are surrounded by people who we could really connect with if we didn’t keep missing them. It’s hopeful and sad at the same time.
My mom bought us the actual physical CD of this record for Christmas, and I am so glad she did. I’ve gone so digital in my music buying that I forgot how much the packaging can add to the experience. I didn’t really get this song at first, but when I could read the lyrics instead of just hear them, it clicked. It tells the story of a guy trying to break into his girlfriend’s email and gets an unfortunate surprise when he finally gets in. So awesome.
This song breaks my heart every time I hear it. I feel like I want to argue with the girl he’s singing about, but I can’t, because I have felt how she feels. Some days I bounce between “the useless luck makes her want to cry” and “she tries and fails to stop her spirit’s rise” several times before lunch.
(The video is a little Blair Witch-y, but it sounds great and you get a bonus performance of “Levi Johnston’s Blues”, which is amazing and brings me so much joy. “I live to hang out with the boys, play some hockey, do some fishin’ and kill some moose.”)
It’s time for best of lists! Oh, how I love best of lists. We worked long and hard on this sucker, so listen up.
1. Tighten Up – The Black Keys (from Brothers)
This song is not only one of my favorites of the year, but it has my favorite groove of the year at about 2:30. I first heard the song on a commercial, because I am uncool, and bought the whole record because it is greatness.
2. Rococo – Arcade Fire (from The Suburbs)
I’m pretty sure this song was stuck in my head for half of 2010. (The rest of the year it was that Train song. GAH.) I love this whole album so much. It was tough to decide whether to put this song or We Used To Wait on the best of list, but this one won out in the end because it’s a great send up of the ‘modern kids’ that we all make fun of but secretly want to be.
3. Change of Time – Josh Ritter (from So Runs the World Away)
I first heard Josh Ritter when Kari put a song on a mix for me, then sent me his Historical Conquests album. His stuff is so interesting. We heard this song on an episode of Parenthood and looked it up immediately. I should have known it was Josh Ritter. This song is so pretty. I like pretty.
4. Father’s Son – Fistful of Mercy (from As I Call You Down)
Fistful of Mercy is Dhani Harrison, Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur. I love Ben Harper, I love Joseph Arthur, and George was my favorite Beatle even though Aaron seems to find that impossible to believe. It’s a win win win! This song has that down home pickin’ party vibe that I love and it makes me really happy.
5. Beg Steal or Borrow – Ray LaMontagne (from God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise)
I mean. Come on. There was no way this was going to not be great. It’s Ray LaMontagne. With a band called The Pariah Dogs. On an album called God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise. Perfect.
6. At or With Me – Jack Johnson (from To The Sea)
This one is all Aaron. He always surprises me with the songs he picks out. I actually found this one annoying for a long time, but then I listened to the lyrics (and saw the video with Andy Sandberg) and it started to grow on me.
7. Dog Days Are Over – Florence + the Machine (from Lungs)
OH MY HOLY PAJAMAS this girl is amazing. She’s super vibey, like a more accessible Neko Case. We are pretty removed from what is cool and didn’t see her until some friends made us watch an awards show where she performed. And, you know, blew the roof off the place.
8, Spanish Pipedream – The Avett Brothers (from Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows)
So there’s this band called the Avett Brothers. Have you heard of them? I’m not sure if I’ve mentionedthemhere before. This is from a John Prine tribute album. We sing it nonstop in this house.
9. All the Poor and Powerless – Sons & Daughters (from All the Poor and Powerless)
Sons & Daughters is David Leonard and Leslie Jordan. David is a friend of ours… he was the lead singer of Jackson Waters, a band Aaron worked with for a few years a while back. He is amazingly, amazingly talented, and this is his new project. It is so beautiful it hurts me, y’all. So good.
10. Couple Cheap Rings – Waterdeep (from In the Middle of It)
Waterdeep. Obviously. The Lori songs were always my favorites, and this one is no exception. I love the guitar sounds and the oh oh ohs especially.
11. Dancing in the Minefields – Andrew Peterson (from Counting Stars)
“So when I lose my way, find me / When I loose love’s chains, bind me / At the end of all my faith, till the end of all my days / When I forget my name, remind me.” Andrew Peterson and his beautiful lyrics get me every time.
12. The High Road – Broken Bells (from Broken Bells)
I tried to avoid this for a while. It suffered from what we call “Seabiscuit Syndrome” around here – too many people were telling us to like it so we stayed away on principle. But it is too catchy to ignore, y’all, and it turned into one of my very favorite things.
13. Kings and Queens – 30 Seconds to Mars (from This Is War)
It’s Jared Leto. With blue hair and eyeliner. I KNOW. I miss Jordan Catalano, too. But you can’t deny this song. It has a huge chorus and tons of people singing and a video with bikes. It rules.
14. The Mystery Zone – Spoon (from Transference)
The first thought I had about this song was how I like the bass line it has. Then I went back and listened and realized that the bass pretty much stays in once place the whole time. So I guess I like the way this song feels bass-y.
15. Crossfire – Brandon Flowers (from Flamingo)
Another Aaron pick. He loves him some Killers. That kid has a great voice.
16. Drunk Girls – LCD Soundsystem (from This Is Happening)
I heard Aaron say the other day that LCD Soundsystem is his favorite band. I don’t know if that’s totally true, but he is certainly enthusiastic about the guy. I love the line “Drunk girls are boringly wild.”
17. Murder in the City (live) – The Avett Brothers (from Live Volume 3)
The song is older, but this version was released this year so we’re counting it. You can’t beat live Avetts, you guys, and this is one of the best. Love love love.
We’ve gone to the Behold the Lamb of God show in Nashville every year of our marriage. We were there at the Belcourt, we were there the year Sean and Sara Watkins performed, we’ve heard Pierce Pettis sing “Miriam” more times than we would care to admit. It is hands down my favorite thing we do in Nashville for the holidays.
And this year we can’t go.
We were already considering not going for financial reasons; the tickets seem really pricey this year and we are in serious budget mode. Then I realized I will already be in Texas for Christmas on that day so we definitely would not be able to swing it. Sad. I was even considering driving the hour and a half to Corsicana, TX, by myself just to make sure I get to see the show.
And then the heavens opened up and grace rained down.
Andrew Peterson retweeted this guy at about 5:00 this afternoon. I have never been so happy at 5:00 on a Wednesday afternoon, I am pretty darn sure.
Aaron and I booked it over to the church and found great seats. And, oh, it was wonderful. That show and those songs have become such a calming thing in my life. As we sat there in that dark sanctuary I could literally feel the stress falling off of me. Gabe Scott and his dulcimer, Ben Shive and his accordion, funky percussion and a gorgeous cello and so. many. guitars. I cried at all my usual moments: when they played the instrumental O Come Emmanuel, at the line “behold our broken hearts”, during the big “sooooo sing out with joy for the brave little boy” moment in the reprise, when the crowd sings the Doxology at the end.
It’s just all so beautiful and thoughtful and moving. It hurts me, it’s so good.
I know I talk about how much I love Nashville a lot. Maybe too much. But, you guys, I really love Nashville. Sometimes I think this city was tailor made for me. We’ve had a pretty tough go of it this year. I’d kind of written it off, thinking I could just hide out in Texas for the last couple of weeks and get a fresh start in January. But something in the show tonight gave me hope. Hope for the Christmas season this year. Hope that all the weird stuff that’s gone down this year will be redeemed.
I’m thankful to live in a place where there are free dress rehearsals of albums I love by artists I love full of songs that are so meaningful to me that I can attend on a moment’s notice. So thanks, Andrew Peterson. Thanks, Christ Community. And thanks, Nashville.
Sweet tea. Gilmore Girls reruns. Sparkly pipe cleaners. Angry Birds on Aaron’s phone. Avett Brothers live albums. Boots. Our Nashville people. Messenger bags. Our newly rearranged bedroom. Sisters who mail you slippers. Our neighbor who grows crops in his front yard. The funniest youth group on the planet. Being 30.
Grey nail polish. Stacks of magazines. Mawmaw’s chocolate pie. TOMS. Elton John on vinyl. Playing Scabble online with my dad. Burt’s Bees lip gloss. Memories of Miles. Naps. Purple ink pens. Friday Night Lights. Friends across the street. Twitter. A church where you can ask questions and be unsure and fit in anyway. Rolos.
Harry Potter. Car dancing. Clementines. Adults who love teenagers. Hot pink watches. Gel eyeliner. Work friends. Mexican street tacos. Orange tank tops. Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. Friends you’ve had for 25 years. Procrastination. Shopping on the phone with my mom.
Family in all its forms. Taking risks. Choosing to take care of yourself. The unknown. Safe places. The best husband I ever had.
“Tighten Up” – The Black Keys
I didn’t own any Black Keys stuff until after I’d heard this song on that Subaru commercial about a thousand times. That is lame. But I love this song and the whole record, and the video’s pretty great, too.
“Anemone Arms” – Snowden
Super indie, Southern, opened for tons of people. I read about them for the first time in Marie Claire. I really have my finger on the pulse of cool music, y’all.
“Little Girl” – Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, featuring Julian Casablancas
One of my college girls sent me this song because she knew how much I like the Strokes. (Is that lame? I can’t remember which bands are cool to like and which ones are bad. It’s hard work, this stuff.) The whole album is pretty great, actually, but I particularly love this song. You can’t beat it when someone knows you well enough to know what songs you will like.
This is my last Avett related post for a while. I promise. It’s just so hard to contain the awesome, you guys.
~ ONE ~
We were all over it when tickets for the Avett Brothers at the Ryman went on sale this summer. They were playing two consecutive shows, so we paired up with our friends Scott and Becka to tackle the Ticketmaster monster the morning of the sale. They were looking at Friday night, we were looking at Saturday, and we would buy whichever night gave us the best seats.
We were not prepared for the part where we both got great seats. What option did we have? We had to buy them both.
Scott and Becka and I have a lot of overlapping music taste – they are the ones I see Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers shows with. It’s not generally music that Aaron is on board with. But we all love the Avett Brothers with an equal amount of passion and obsession, so we had to take advantage.
~ TWO ~
The first show was opened by Chuck Mead, who was the singer/songwriter of BR549. I don’t know anything about them, or him, but I know a lot of people take them both very seriously. I am not one of those people. He played FOREVER, first of all, and every song sounded exactly the same. It was like we were at Six Flags and decided to go to the Nashville Country Show to get out of the sun for a few minutes. Not a fan.
But the second show? Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Grace Potter is straight up my hero. She is a total rockstar badass Stevie Nicks redux funky bluesy ball of awesome. She blew my socks off. Or would have, if I’d been wearing any.
~ THREE ~
I honestly had no idea what we were in for. I knew how much I loved the music. I’d been studying up on the deep tracks to make sure I would know all the songs. I knew they were known for really energetic shows.
But I had no idea how fantastic it was going to be. They opened the first show with their current single, Head Full of Doubt, and the place went NUTS. Everyone sang every word, on their feet, to the ENTIRE SHOW. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The high energy songs were amazing. The four of them stand in a single row at the front of the stage, the two brothers alternating between piano, guitar and banjo (while also playing kick drum and hi-hat with their feet), while the other two play bass and cello and dance around like nobody’s business. Have you ever seen a guy jump up and down and spin in circles while also playing a beautiful cello solo? It’s incredible.
But, oh, you guys. The slow ones. We’ve seen a lot of shows at the Ryman, but I have never seen a crowd go from jumping and dancing to standing still so quickly. It’s enthralling.
~ FOUR ~
I had a mental list of the songs I was hoping they’d do, and over the course of the two shows I heard most of them. (No “Ballad of Love and Hate”, though, which was a big letdown.) Highlights included: Paranoia in B Major, Distraction #74, Living of Love, All My Mistakes (the song God Bless the Broken Road wishes it could be), The Fall, Laundry Room, And It Spread (one of the greatest crowd sing-a-long moments I have ever been a part of), Three S’s. My long shot was a song called “Colorshow”, which is on the Four Thieves record and that I have listened to on repeat for weeks at a time. It’s dark and messy and opens with one of my favorite Avett lines – “Be loud, let your color show, try to keep the madness low” – and ends with a loud kick-drummy chorus of “And I’m done forever, it’s you and me forever / Cause I’m done forever, see it’s you and me forever” and I just love it so much. And they played it TWICE. BOTH SHOWS. Just kill me dead, it was so great.
~ FIVE ~
The shows were Halloween weekend, so there were lots of people in costume. The problem with the crowd that an Avett show draws is that it’s hard to tell if people are dressed up or not. A friend tipped us off to a game he calls “Hipster or Halloween?”, and we played several rounds over the course of both nights. For example: a kid is wearing jeans and a hoodie, but he is also wearing cowboy boots and a coonskin cap. Hipster or Halloween?
There were some great costumes, too. A guy dressed like the “Opulence. I HAS IT.” guy from the Directv commercial, complete with tiny giraffe on a pillow. Crazy Joaquin Phoenix. Space Ghost. Two Waldos were sitting together when a third Waldo came along and sat on their same row.
On the second night, while they were setting the stage after Grace Potter, Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” came on the speakers. By the end of the first chorus the ENTIRE PLACE was singing along at the top of their lungs. Space Ghost stood up and directed us like a choir for a while before busting out his best breakdancing moves. It was a perfect moment.
(I found this video when I was looking for the one below. So awesome.)
~ SIX ~
The first night had a very simple stage setup, basically consisting of instruments and a giant stripey backdrop. So we were pretty surprised when the curtain came up on the second night to reveal a haunted graveyard. There was smoke, there was thunder and lightening, there were creepy birds and tombstones. Then Bach’s Toccata started and they came walking out on stage, stumbling around with their hands ahead of them, DRESSED LIKE MUMMIES. Then they played the whole show dressed like that. It was insane and hilarious and awesome.
~ SEVEN ~
Here’s a video of the mummy entrance and the first song of the night. It really captures the feel of the show and the enthusiasm of the crowd. (Skip ahead a couple of minutes to get to the good stuff.) I am not kidding when I say I’ve never experienced anything like it. They were fantastic, the crowd was super into it, everything was perfect. I could have easily sat there for two more hours each night and listened to them play every single song they have. It was incredible.
My apologies to those of you I am friends with on twitter or facebook. I realize that it’s been very Avett-licious the past week or so. But, you guys, I can’t help it. I am in love with them. I promise this is the next to last post about them, though. For a while anyway.
1. Distraction #74
My favorite part of this song is right at the end when the three of them trade off every couple of words on the verse. And the line “I’m as true as I try to be”.
2. Laundry Room
This song perfectly captures how it feels to be with someone in the beginning. And it has a sweet bluegrass breakdown right in the middle.
3. Murder in the City
This one is Aaron’s favorite. I love the line “always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name”. Such a beautiful picture.