By Amanda DK

The Avett Brothers have a very special place in my heart.

I’ll admit, for most of my collegiate first few post-grad years, when I first moved to Los Angeles, my musical knowledge was very limited. It wasn’t because I didn’t love music, I just viewed the world of music much like I still do Sephora: vast and overwhelming. I didn’t know where to start.

When I first started dating my current boyfriend, one of the first artists I remember hearing in his car was The Avett Brothers. It was right around when I And Love And You came out, and I was transfixed. I listened to it so much that I was actually able to learn the words to most of the songs (something I am terrible at). This was the kind of music I liked.

Two years later, even though they announced new tour dates for this fall, the band has yet to release an album of new material. In the meantime, there has been a surge of similar artists rising up the ranks – singers and small groups with an wizened folk sound, who know how to appeal to our core desires, with the occasional dash of acoustic pop.

Death Becomes Her or “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”

The Avett Brothers “And It Spread”

The Low Anthem “Matter of Time”

Good Old War “Here Are The Problems”

The Civil Wars “C’est La Mort”

Justin Townes Earle “Harlem River Blues”

The Low Anthem

I was first introduced to The Low Anthem via their second album, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, which they first released on their own, and subsequently nabbed a record deal with Nonesuch Records, who re-released it in June 2009.  Over a year and a half of touring and studio time followed, resulting in Smart Flesh. Each track is raw and haunting;if there is one thing they know how to do well it is dynamics. Most of the tracks demonstrate well-executed restraint, making the more explosive, driving songs doubly powerful. I can’t quite tell if it was mixed with a dreamy echo to evoke primitive recording techniques, or the effect is a byproduct of recording in an abandoned pasta factory. Either way it helps give the band a unique voice and sets them apart from their contemporaries.

Good Old War

 Probably the most “pop” band on this mix, Good Old War writes music drenched with earnest sincerity. Lithe guitars, accordion and a variety of other instruments (all played by the trio) will make your insides warm, your body want to dance, and tug at your heart, and coax you into clapping along before you know it – even if you’re home alone in your living room. Unfortunately their tour was cut short due to illness and injury, a bummer since I heard that they were fantastic during their early slot at Coachella 2011. My favorite tracks off their self-titled second album are “My Own Sinking Ship” and “That’s Some Dream.” Keep your eye out for a new album on Sargent House early next year.

The Civil Wars

 I saw this duo at Hotel Cafe without knowing anything about them, and was immediately blown away.  First of all, it is extremely difficult to believe that there is nothing going on between these two, their chemistry is just too good (singer Joy Williams is married to Nate Yetton). But I guess that’s just a testament to their talent as songwriters and performers. Williams and John Paul White met at a songwriting conference in Tennessee a few years ago and the rest is history. The Civil Wars have not only had their music featured on Grey’s Anatomy, but their debut album Barton Hollow bowed at No. 1 on the iTunes charts and No. 12 on the Billboard 200. And it’s no mystery why, their music is emotional compelling, spellbinding. Do yourself a favor and see them on tour this fall, ideally in the most intimate venue possible. I guarantee you will leave feeling changed.

Justin Townes Earle

Last summer, while I was still working at at studio, Justin Townes Earle came and performed on our balcony.  I probably shouldn’t share this, but I didn’t actually listen to any of his music before I booked him.  I had heard positive reviews of course, and knew he was Steve Earle’s son, but I just didn’t know what to expect.  He rolled in on time, but with neon bandages on his fingers, and immediately apologized – he had gotten drunk the night before, accidentally broke a glass bowl, and cut is fingers trying to pick up the pieces.  Despite several stitches in each of his fingers, he was determined to play for us. It wasn’t long until he charmed the intimate audience into forgetting that anything was wrong. It was incredible to watch him get fully absorbed into each song, sometimes wandering in a small circle as he played, and then bashfully remember we were there at the end. On the whole, the album comes of a bit more tongue in cheek than the performance was, but I fully recommend experiencing both.