My brother, husband, and I have similar tastes in music. We like a folksy sound. We like banjos but not too much twang in the vocals. We like harmonies.
So we all like the Avett Brothers.
Hailing from my native North Carolina, Seth and Scott Avett (along with fellow band members Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon) are known for such songs as “I and Love and You,” “Live and Die,” “Murder in the City,” and others about love, loss, and regret. But they also occasionally sing songs from the church hymnal, paying homage to their spiritual roots. (Their paternal grandfather was a Methodist minister.)
Here are a few of my faves that center on Jesus.
“In the Garden”: Songwriter C. Austin Miles said he was inspired to pen these lyrics by his reflections on what it must have been like for Mary Magdalene to be alone in the garden with the resurrected Christ on that first Easter morning. The song describes the sweetness of those quiet times we spend alone with Christ, communing with him in prayer.
“Just a Closer Walk with Thee”: As we sing this hymn we beg Jesus to bind us close to himself in life and in death. The lyrics acknowledge Jesus as our guide and our burden bearer.
“Jesus Lifted Me”: This African American spiritual praises Jesus for lifting us out of trouble and bondage.
“Stand By Me”: Not to be confused with the more famous song of the same title by Ben E. King (“Darlin’, darlin’, stand . . .”), this hymn by Charles Albert Tindley was a brand-new discovery for me, and I absolutely love it. In the midst of one of life’s storms, the speaker cries out to Jesus: “Thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.” Each of the other four verses calls to account some trait or name or past act of God, asking him to be that person in a particular way today. In the video below, Seth Avett sings it solo on a tour bus. You can read the full lyrics at Hymnary.org.
Other religious songs that the Avett Brothers sing—many along with their dad, Jim, and sister, Bonnie—span the topics of salvation (“Amazing Grace”); communal prayer and lament (“Down in the Valley”); trust in Jesus (“Learning to Lean”); casting off violence and aggression (“Down by the Riverside”); dying and going to heaven (“Peace in the Valley”; “Angel Band”; “Walking in Jerusalem”; “I’ll Fly Away”); and Christ’s second coming (“When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder”). The Avett Family recorded several of these in 2008.