The Avett Brothers
The Avett Brothers (photo by Crackerfarm, PR)
The Avett Brothers
The Gleam III EP
Loma Vista Recordings
Simple and intimate. These are accurate ways of describing the back-to-basics approach The Avett Brothers use on eight new songs that offer respite in these turbulent times. But these songs, as understated as they may be, are far from being carefree exercises in melodic escapism. Instead, they are serious ruminations on issues that touch us all.
The Avett Brothers, who first performed and recorded together under that name 20 years ago, have returned to their roots by reviving a musical concept they first introduced in 2006. The Gleam III, which is also referred to as "The Third Gleam," is a brand new, eight-song EP showcasing the Avett Brothers’ core: Scott Avett, his younger brother Seth Avett, and their friend Bob Crawford.
Coming just ten months after their latest full-length album, Closer Than Together, The Gleam III picks up where the earlier EPs The Gleam, from 2006, also known as "The First Gleam," and “The Gleam II” (from 2008 and also referred to as "The Second Gleam") left off. This new EP’s appearance during the Covid-19 pandemic and recent civil unrest may lead some to believe that "The Third Gleam" is a direct response to the times. But these eight songs were all created in advance of the current turmoil.
Despite that, The Gleam III still reflects universally relevant issues, ones that are timely and significant to the brothers. Musically and sonically, the band strips away the fuller, more developed elements of their full-length studio albums, the last five of which were produced by Rick Rubin. As a result of this paired-down setting, Joe Kwon, who joined the band nearly 15 years ago and primarily plays cello, is not involved with this new EP.
The Gleam III is rich with acoustic contemplation. “I Should’ve Spent the Day with My Family” is a poignant song that reflects on the significance of family, just as news breaks about the murder of a young boy who is the latest victim of senseless gun violence. “Prison To Heaven” documents the thoughts of a prison inmate, trying to cope with his disheartening life behind bars by conjuring up images of the afterlife.
On a lighthearted note, “Women Like You” is a good-natured, but somewhat awkward, tribute to the opposite sex. Perhaps the loudest proclamation on The Gleam III comes in “Untitled #4.” Here, the brothers declare that they are happiest when life has been stripped down to its basic essentials. Material things, recognition, accolades and other bogus pleasures are all meaningless luxuries, unnecessary in a simple, honest life. They sing: "I’m happy being me the most/When I let what makes me happy go ... I’m happier with nothing.”
The Gleam III closes with “The Fire,” a contemplative six-minute meditation on spirituality with images of life, mortality, and the afterlife and ruminations about love, faith, and hope.
The Avett Brothers shine in the pared-down setting they fashioned for these eight songs. This less-is-more approach mirrors the honest and straightforward nature of their songs. Plus, their timing is perfect. The Gleam III EP arrives when we are all searching for a gleam of hope and optimism to brighten the dark shadows that have crept over us.
Listen to a brand new FUV Live session with The Avett Brothers on Tuesday, September 1, at 9 p.m. ET on 90.7, also streaming online.