Album Reviews

Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield sing Elliott Smith
Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield sing Elliott Smith
8.5
 on
Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 19:16
submitted by
Thomas

Spread over three years, Jessica Lea Mayfield and Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers worked on this Elliott Smith covers album. Both celebrated songwriters in their own right, it’s not like they needed this project to draw attention to their own body of work. Why do it then? Simply because the two of them love the man’s songs. Something we can relate to because seriously, what’s not to love about Smith’s aching ballads and Beatlesque pop?

Coming from a place of true admiration, Avett and Mayfield didn’t go out of their way to reinvent Smith’s songs. Opening track “Between The Bars” for example, stays mostly true to the original except for some details. Sure, they stretch out “Angeles” but it’s not like they went ahead and made a polka version of the song. The two take turns singing lead and it’s the interaction between the two of them that lends a new perspective to Smith’s songs along with the sparse and subtle arrangements. And when they go for the harmonies, that’s where the real magic happens.

Rather than focusing on one period of Smith’s unfortunately short-lived career, Avett and Mayfield select pieces from both his earlier bare-boned acoustic musings (“Roman Candle”) as well as the more elaborate pop songs that followed (“Baby Britain”). No matter what song they choose though, the result is never anything short of beautiful. It’s not hard to see these respectful reinterpretations are a pure labor of love. Or to put it in Elliott Smith’s own words, they serve as a fond farewell to a friend.