There’s an old song by The Louvin Brothers in which the legendary country music duo sings that “the family who prays will never be parted, their circle in heaven unbroken shall stand.”
I’d be a bit surprised if Jim Avett and his wife, Susie, actually sit around the kitchen table with their daughter, Spartanburg County resident Bonnie Avett Rini, and their sons, Scott and Seth (of the Grammy-nominated Americana/indie folk band the Avett Brothers), hands folded in prayer the way the family does in the photo that’s on the cover of the Louvin Brothers’ 1958 album, “The Family Who Prays,” but there’s no denying that familial ties are of utmost importance to the Avetts.
When I reached Avett by phone last week, the 70-year-old singer-songwriter and storyteller, whose music is primarily influenced by classic country and old-time folk, made that point perfectly clear.
“Everybody wants to get a leg up on you except your family,” he said. “And to dig a ditch between you and your family is a ridiculous thing to do. Family is the closest thing you have to God. As far as somebody being your biggest fan, it’s your family and you can’t waste a resource like that.”
Avett, who will perform with guest accompaniment by his daughter Bonnie and musician friend Ray Morton at 8 p.m. Saturday at Capri on Main in Gaffney, recently released a gospel album, “For His Children and Ours,” which is a collaborative effort featuring all three of his children.
“We were all eating together at my house — the boys and the girl and all the grandkids come to eat with Susie and me probably twice a month or so — and I made the statement that I needed to record another CD so that I’d have something more to sell at my shows,” said Avett, who lives on a farm outside Concord, N.C. “And they said, ‘why don’t we record a gospel one?’
“So, we got together for three days at Seth’s studio at his house, and he hired a couple of people that work with the Avett Brothers — including the sound man Justin Glanville — and Scott, Seth and Dolph Ramseur (who heads Ramseur Records, the label that launched the Avett Brothers’ career) funded the thing.”
The result is a beautifully organic collection of songs, including such gospel standards as “Beulah Land,” “Where the Roses Never Fade” and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” that hearkens to another place and time.
As I listened to “For His Children and Ours” for the first time, I couldn’t help but think of my own father, who passed away earlier this year at age 82.
“When things get tough and you lose your daddy, I think you’re looking for an anchor,” Avett said. “I think that you feel like a great tree has been uprooted beside you and you need something to steady you, and those songs steady you.”
I told Avett that when my father was on his deathbed, I played a recording of country legend Connie Smith’s rendition of “How Great Thou Art,” for him. Smith’s version had long been one of his favorites, and seeing him react to it as best as he could in his condition is a memory I’ll forever cherish.
“I wish you would’ve called me,” said Avett, who lost his own father in 1976. “I would’ve brought a guitar with me and sat down beside him, and he could’ve drifted in and drifted out with some songs.”
I’ve only crossed paths with Avett on three occasions (all within the last year and a half) so it’s easy to understand why I wouldn’t have thought to reach out to him during that moment. So, for him to have made such a generous offer to someone he’s only begun to get to know shows that Avett values not only family but also friends, and that says perhaps even more about his character.
Tickets for Avett’s performance Saturday at Capri on Main, which also includes an opening set from youthful musicians Kayla Goller, Drew and Marley Spencer, are $10. For more information, call 864-489-4691 or visit www.caprionmain.com.
A closer look at some of this week’s area shows:
Pinky Doodle Poodle will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday at Ground Zero in Spartanburg and at 9 p.m. Sunday at The Radio Room in Greenville. Hailing from Japan, the female-fronted band offers highly energetic punk rock inspired by such legendary American groups as Bad Brains and the MC5.
The Antibodies will perform at 9:30 p.m. Friday at the Nu-Way Restaurant and Lounge in Spartanburg. The veteran Upstate outfit churns out an infectious brand of power pop and rock ‘n’ roll that’s noted for its quirkiness and musical adventurousness.
Brother Oliver will perform at 5:45 p.m. Saturday at RJ Rockers in Spartanburg. Formed by siblings Andrew and Stephen Oliver, the Greenville-based group offers a driving folk-rock sound that’s tinged with elements of psychedelia.
Nappy Roots will perform at 9 p.m. Saturday at The Radio Room in Greenville. The seminal Southern hip-hop outfit, which burst onto the scene with its platinum-selling 2002 debut album, “Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz,” is renowned for its soulful and funky original sound.
Grammy Award-winning band Wilco will perform at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9 in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, N.C. Tickets are $45-$85 and on sale now. For more information, call 800-745-3000 or visit www.livenation.com.