Each week in God and Country Music, Nick Rynerson gives country music a chance and examines the world of Americana, folk, alt-country, and popular country music.
Under the wide umbrella of country music that spans from (questionably) Taylor Swift to Roy Acuff there are few acts that transcend definition and stir their fans like the Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers, a North Carolina outfit headed by two very talented siblings, have been hard to classify but easy to love. They posses virtuosic musical chops and a joyful, positive disposition that is so refreshing in this day and age. The Avett Brothers won me over a few years back with the depth and sincerity of their songwriting and overwhelmingly good vibes that they give off.
It is this positivity that has made the Avett Brothers such a shining star in American music today. Their music has a refreshing wholesomeness about it. Not in a forced or cliché way, but in a “this is who I am and this is what gives me joy” sort of way. And when much “positive” music is safe, tame and somewhat stale, the Brothers bring wholesomeness into the real world. They don’t avoid pain, ugliness and brokenness but instead fight against it with a joyful spirit.
Never are they purer in heart than on their classic track “Salvation Song” off of their 2004 album Mignonette. Amazingly simple, concise and culturally revolutionary are the lyrics,
“We came for salvation/ we came for family/ we came for all that’s good/ that’s how we’ll walk away”.
While certainly no evangelical troupe, the Avett Brothers get something that many in the church do not: love and grace are more powerful than cynicism and selfishness.
This song in particular is such a noteworthy piece of work. It describes the heart of who The Avett Brothers are and why I love them so much. It is a profound message of countercultural sacrifice and hope. So telling is the line,
“And if your love laughs at your dreams/ Well it’s not as bad as it seems/ Either way one of them has got to go”
It’s so selfless that it is countercultural, really. This sacrificial goodness resonates with the human spirit on a deep level. The common grace of the Avett Brothers expressed in its most concentrated form in this song is essentially a billboard for the merciful character of God. Man, created in the image of his Creator, at his best moments, shines through with such magnificence that it moves regenerate hearts and unregenerate hearts alike, leaving us with a yearning for wholeness, unity and restoration. Maybe this is why the Avett Brothers have gained a following such a diverse and loyal following that transcends music scenes, age groups and snobbery. It is as if we all long for what the Avett Brothers express
The first time I heard “Salvation Song” I wept unashamedly and every time I hear it these days, I get darn close. And in a very real way, encourages me to trust Christ as I realize that the themes sung about in “Salvation Song” are found in their completed forms in the gospel of Jesus. Scott Avett may say it best in the first verse when he says,
“And I would give up everything / No this is not just about me / And I don’t know a plainer way to say it Babe / And they may pay us off in fame / Though that is not why we came / And I know well and good that won’t heal our hearts”.