And if I don't make it to the spring
May you catch the joy that a melody brings
From my dear brothers ragged six string
Singing the songs we're embarrassed to sing
The state of Maryland has been called many things. I'm just kidding, it hasn't, everyone forgets it even exists. If it weren't for two cities, Baltimore and Annapolis, Maryland would have gone the way of Rhode Island, Delaware, and Montana, and be added to the list of "states I always forget to list when I'm bored at work listing all 50 states."
Aerial view of Annapolis with the Naval Academy Dome and the Maryland Statehouse
photo: Chris Boswell
The city of Annapolis actually has a fair amount of historic significance to it. During the "hey let's throw a dart at a map and name that city the capitol of the United States" era of history, Annapolis was, in fact, named the capitol of the United States. During the 17th century, it was even called the "Athens of America." Nowadays, it is far from the "Athens of America" and more like the sailing capital of the United States. If you've ever been to the historic downtown Annapolis (and if you haven't, I highly recommend it) you will see the multitudes of sailboats that surround the docks. And especially if you've ever visited downtown Annapolis during the annual boat show, or if you've been stuck in the traffic that it creates on every road in a 15-mile radius to the city, you know how popular boats are in Annapolis. Granted, it's mostly a bunch of people walking around saying, "Hey look. That's a boat. And there's another." But it draws more people to Annapolis than anything else that goes on there. Except maybe the Naval Academy.
Oh, did I forget to mention the Naval Academy? That's fairly important. If you want to be in the Navy, and honestly who doesn't, or you want to see Navy play a game of, shall we say, underwhelming football, you will come to Annapolis. Located right in the heart of downtown Annapolis, the Naval Academy is a great place to learn about the history of the United States and watch a bunch of men in uniform run and do pushups, if that's your kind of thing. It's good that Maryland has Annapolis, because it offsets the city of Baltimore. As nice as Baltimore can be, you're also more likely to get murdered there than most other cities in the country, behind only St. Louis (2) and New Orleans (1), and ahead of Detroit. That's right. Statistically, you are safer in Detroit than Baltimore. And that's not something you want your state to be known for, which is why Annapolis is good for the state.
So it's appropriate that The Avett Brothers wrote a song from their "Pretty Girl From…" series about Annapolis. Annapolis is a lot like the Avetts. It's old-fashioned, yet still easy to enjoy. "Pretty Girl From Annapolis" is just another example of how excellent the Avett Brothers are at writing songs. It's a pure, honest song. Lines like "I'm always chasing some far off dream/My lady I know it's not easy for you to see/But I've lied to myself/And your loveliness, no it doesn't help" show an apologetic man acknowledging his faults and hoping to make up for them. And the melody is just as pure and honest as the lyrics, a simple structure of banjo, guitar and harmonies. It's a simple song, and it's an honest song, and that's what the Avett Brothers do best. The Avetts have always said that Maryland is like a second home to them; they come to Maryland every year for a concert or two. They've said that even when they were just starting out, Maryland welcomed them and became a home for them and they seem to really enjoy the place. So it makes sense that they wrote a song referencing it.
The Avett Brothers, a North Carolina-bred band that is, actually, brothers, have written somewhere roughly around a bajillion songs that include the phrase "Pretty Girl From [insert city here]." As to why they have written so many "Pretty Girl" songs, I'll let the Avetts explain. According to an interview with Country Standard Time, "There's a story in that," explains Scott. "It started with a song that was going to be called 'A Song for Robin,' but in an attempt to disguise it for the sake of one of the fellas in the band in trouble with his girlfriend, we changed it to 'Pretty Girl from Matthews.' In that change, we thought about it and were like, well, Jimmie Rogers did that with Blue Yodels and just numbered them and just did that over and over... the subject matter is endless."
He further says that none of them are necessarily love songs, "I don't think really any of them are," just songs about experiences they've had with the person they're writing about at the time. And it's a lucrative deal - since there are beautiful women all over the world, the series has a never-ending cache. When one fan called up to the stage, "Sing a song about an ugly girl!" Seth threw back his now-infamous swoon-worthy, "There are no ugly girls, only different levels of pretty ones." See? I almost swooned right there.Ben Palmer
January 18, 2012