Heidi, Jim Avett’s lovely publicist, told me to make sure that I introduced myself to Jim last night — and I would have anyway, to thank him for his interview, but because she’d said that, I made sure to find him during Reed Mahoney’s opening set. She’d warned me, though, that Jim was gregarious; that he’d talk my ear off. And of all the introductions to Jim Avett I expected, the one I did not expect was for him to take my right hand between both of his, before I’d even introduced myself, and start to tell me a story that began, “So we were in Tallahassee, visiting Susie’s mother …” and that finished with how he met Reed. It was the warmest, most genuinely charming introduction I’ve had to a musician in ages (besides the Cowboy, who counts differently) and we stood outside in the chilly March air while he told me about how he likes to record and produce, how he likes to start with two guitars and the song and build from there — how he likes to find artists who need help and put a financial or personal hand behind their back, because he can now.
Every word out of his mouth was genuine and fascinating, and a lot of them were funny as hell.
His set was just as genuinely honest and open as our conversation was; he played with Greensboro resident Molly McGinn — late of Amelia’s Mechanics — and a rhythm guitarist who looked terrifically familiar but whose name escapes me at the moment, and it was just a clever, funny, clean set of gorgeous folk and traditional and country tinged songs about love and life and boys and girls. “Every song is eventually just a song about a boy and a girl,” he said at one point. He did some songs from Tribes, and some new songs, and some old songs, and one about finding a box of old photos in the attic, which made me cry like a baby.
Jim is a very unassuming, self-deprecating — “We started practicing four days ago and we weren’t getting anywhere, so we just started drinking” — guy until he starts talking; he stood on stage and told stories, jokes, to a quiet but appreciative crowd that responded in all the right places. And he played his songs, which are just lovely. There’s no other word for them — he’s a great guitar player and a phenomenal songwriter, and the only mention you will see of his boys in this review is that I know where they get it. It’s clear as day, when you see Jim on stage, that they learned their stage presence and command of a crowd from watching their dad.
It was a sharply beautiful evening, quiet and intimate, and I feel lucky that I got to see Jim play, and that I got to talk with him as much as I did. A fascinating, generous, hilarious and talented man.
Reed Mahoney is a recent transplant to North Carolina; if you think John Prine filtered through Carl Hiassen’s Florida, you’ve got a pretty good sense of how he sounds. He was a great opener for Jim, and I’m excited that he’s living here now, working on an album and playing around. I can’t wait to see him again.