Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Cover Elliott Smith — “Miss Misery” and More

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photo by Larry Hirshowitz

Seth Avett (of the Avett Brothers) and Jessica Lea Mayfield have been working on their Elliott Smith covers record for more than three years, recording for a few days at a time whenever they could find a chance.

Hearing his songs as duets completely changes the experience of listening to Ellliott Smith.

As Jessica told host Jason Bentley, the songs were lonely and now they have these harmonies.

That comment made me tear up. It’s hard to listen to Elliott’s music without thinking about the way he died (the result of self-inflicted stab wounds to the chest).

He was a tormented yet immensely talented artist who has inspired many and its bold move to take on his catalog, but they brought a new life into his songs with their dynamic. They duo have known each other for a decade, but this total immersion in another artist’s music sparked a special kind of inspiration.

The arrangements in their live set up are relatively simple – two guitars and a stand up bass – which puts the focus squarely on the gorgeous intertwining of their voices and Elliott’s powerful lyrics.

They closed their performance with “Miss Misery”, a track that didn’t even make it on the album. Seth said there might even be another album because, once they started, “it was kinda hard to stop covering Elliot Smith.”

Seth said the quality of the source material had a lot to do with how great the record turned out.

Both told their stories about discovering his music – which you can hear as part of the full performance on demand. It’s easily one of my favorite performances on the year and I highly recommend it.

They play the Wilshire Ebell Theater tonight.

Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Live on KCRW

Fond Farewell
Baby Britain
Angel in the Snow
Let’s Get Lost
Between the Bars
Somebody That I Used to Know
Pitseleh
Ballad of Big Nothing
Miss Misery