If there’s one thing true in life, it’s that the Avett Brothers love singing about Pretty Girls. If there’s one person in the world who is qualified to rank all the Avett Brothers songs, it would be my mom, who turns out is probably more of a fan girl of the Avett Brothers than I am of Tiger Woods. And you know that’s tough to do if you read any of the golf articles I write over at Golf on the Mind.
So here’s my mom on the Avett Brothers’ Pretty Girl songs (with a halftime section from me)
I’ve been given an assignment: to review and rank the Pretty Girl songs from the Avett Brothers. Those that know me know that, besides my wonderful family, I have two obsessions in my life: the Avett Brothers and Hamilton, the musical. Two weekends ago I almost combined these passions. I was in New York to see Hamilton on Saturday and the Avett Brothers were at Madison Square Garden on Friday. Unfortunately, I was not feeling well, so I had to pass on the Stubhub tickets for the Avett Brothers. I should mention that I don’t have a musical note in my body and I have no formal musical education. I cannot explain why I like something or why I don’t, but I can recognize what resonates with me.
I’m only going to talk about my top 5 Pretty Girl songs — well, that’s not true. I need to get this out of the way. I strongly dislike one of them. I love almost all of the Avett Brothers songs. Not just like, not just tolerate, but love. It is extremely rare for me to say I dislike one of theirs. However, I dislike Pretty Girl from Feltre. Buzz right past it if it comes up on my phone or iPod (yes I still use one). It is agonizingly slow and awful. I heard them play it in concert last year and you could feel them losing the audience. I could not figure out what I had done to deserve this. Usually everything sounds great live, right? No, no, no. Well, I’ve got that off my chest.
5. Pretty Girl from Raleigh — Carolina Jubilee
This is one of three Pretty Girl songs on this album. I read an interview with Seth Avett from 2011 and he was asked about the story behind the series of Pretty Girls. He said “initially, it was done out desire to not call a girl out by her name. The first one was actually called “A Song for…” and then her name. So we were like, “Let’s just call it ‘Pretty Girl from Matthews’ instead.” And then we started realizing that half of our sings were about relationship and girls. … We saw the opportunity to have a series as well.” That helps explains why there are three of these songs on this album which was released in 2003. What else do young men in their 20s think about?
The lyrics of this song – in a relationship, doesn’t mean anything to me, thanks for doing the dirty work and breaking up. Young guys, lots of girls. I like the speed of the song and the foot-tapping nature of it.
4. Pretty Girl from Matthews –- Country Was
I’m a lyrics kind of person. I think what I most like about this song is that even though the narrator sounds like it’s a relationship that wasn’t destined to work out, he’s happy with her and for her. I like the overall compliment that is paid to her in the chorus.
You’re rising like a sun
That pulled a curtain on the night
Coming through the window
To brighten up my life
I’d love that if someone said that to me.
3. Pretty Girl from San Diego – Emotionalism
I love the fast speed again, and then the dramatic slow down when you get to-
Far away I hear the rhythm of a song
Far away I get the feeling I belong, and so do you
And it goes like this
and the Latin sound the comes with it, or am I imagining that?
Of course, it’s another example of a relationship that he wants so desperately to work, but… not gonna happen –
And I will tell ya best I can
‘Bout how I know you love me
And how I want to love you back
I mentioned this write up to my sister, and she quickly made note of a new Dierks Bentley song about Pretty Girls, titled what else, “Pretty Girls”. So I thought I’d throw that in here.
Also of note here, feel like I have to push Dierks’ third album Long Trip Alone for being the best country album out there. While he’s shifted towards more pop country — and more money — with songs like the above, Long Trip Alone is great to listen all the way through. Alright, back to Girls the Avetts think are Pretty.
2. Pretty Girl from Michigan – The Carpenter
Ok, this exercise has just taught me that the Avett Brothers are kind of like Taylor Swift. They like to write songs about their past loves and/or one night stands. That’s ok with me – they are discreet and that’s what goes with the territory of youth. It takes a while to find that one.
Pretty Girl from Michigan is so honest. Honest about being afraid to be honest.
I made mistakes, and one was telling you that I’d be there,
When telling time had come,
I should’ve said I didn’t care.
I watched an early video of this song and Scott titled it on the fly, “Telling Time”. How many times in our lives have we not said something and realized that we missed the Telling Time and how much more difficult it would be to tell the truth later? Speak up at the Telling Time.
1. Pretty Girl from Chile – Emotionalism
What’s not to love about this song (other than possibly the voice message)? It has the beautiful banjo in the opening, great bass and then awesome guitar later on. It almost sounds like two or even three different songs.
I like the maturity in this song too. The self-awareness of his actions and regret for them is evident. At the same time, the acknowledgement of the impact the many relationships have had on him:
And my heart is like a mason’s
Hands of weathered skin
Each scar makes it harder
For me to hurt again
I don’t know the order of these songs as far as the actual writing of them, or when they met the Pretty Girls they are writing about, but I’d like to think this was the last chronologically.
One thing I’ve learned is that I think I like the later albums and the level of production that went into them compared to the early albums. I like the songs from all the albums equally when I hear them live of course. I understand that might not make me a “true” Avett Brothers fan, but hey, it’s Telling Time.
That’s it, other than this quote from Hamilton:
Love doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep loving anyway
We laugh and we cry
And we break
And we make our mistakes