Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield
March 10, 2015
Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield kicked off a 13-date tour paying tribute to the music of Elliott Smith by doing just that. The duo, accompanied by bassist Paul Defiglia, performed 21 songs — a bunch by Smith along with their own material and a few songs by other influencers such as the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Hank Williams — over the course of a 90-minute performance.
Aside from Avett performing Smith's "Angeles" on his own (as Mayfield made a cup of coffee behind him), the duo always shared the spotlight. Offering a good balance between their vocals, they traded off the leads and harmonizing beautifully on choruses — pairing Mayfield's occasionally haunting style with Avett's simpler tones. McGlohon Theater's stained glass windows and outstanding acoustics provided a perfect setting for the songs.
Avett provided much of the banter between songs, sharing his fears of messing up Smith's songs or how someone might be an influence on his sound — from The Andy Griffith Show to Alice in Chains. Or how he thought Gotye stole the "Somebody that I Used to Know" name from Smith until he saw an old Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton song by the same name.
It didn't take too long for Mayfield to sing one of Avett's songs, "Rain on My Tin Roof," and toward the end of the set, he returned the favor by singing her "Our Hearts Are Wrong," giving it a bit more tempo than the somber version Mayfield recorded. After a long and loud standing ovation, they returned for a three-song encore. The final offering, "Memory Lane," had Avett seated at a piano.
It's not often these days that Avett gets to play in such an intimate setting, and you could clearly see he was humbled by the genuine appreciation the crowd had for his and Mayfield's latest project. Watching two talented musicians give a glimpse into their influences and make a wide range of songs their own through instrumentation as well as vocal stylings made for a special night of music.
I Me Mine (The Beatles)
Miss Misery (Elliott Smith)
Memory Lane (Elliott Smith)