Avett Brothers Bassist Bob Crawford Talks History


Check out Ashley Layne‘s Substream Magazine interview with Bob Crawford, bass player for the Avett Brothers.  Then go to Episode 53 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast and listen to our interview with Crawford.

Here is a taste of Layne’s interview:

So the band definitely has southern roots and deep ties to an historically conservative state, was there hesitation at all to include songs like “Bang Bang” and “We Americans” on the album? Were you scared of being too pointed and divisive?

Well, no. There was a conversation about “Bang Bang” with Scott and Seth. You know what’s great about it is, it’s a conversation starter. So, I think that needs to be pointed out. I think it also needs to be pointed out that the song is written from a personal viewpoint of a real-world situation. So, I think that is important to recognize, as well. This is a song that was good for us as a group, mainly Scott and Seth, because it allowed them to engage in a difficult conversation.

I look at “Bang Bang” and “We Americans” differently. I fell in love with American History in 2004, and I began just reading. I started with the David McCullough books. I had a curiosity about American history that I still have to this day. I have a history podcast called The Road to Now; it’s something I am very serious about. I am getting my masters in history, so when I heard “We Americans” that Seth wrote, I knew Seth was reading Henry Adams so I was like, ’Oh, this is the natural result of Seth reading Henry Adams.’ Henry Adams has the greatest prose of any historian on the face of the planet. To read his historical text is to read literature it’s so beautifully written. Seth also writes beautiful prose and he’s a wordsmith, so, yeah, of course (Seth) nailed the content.

When you read history there were narratives that were, until the past 50 years, not told, but were real narratives. “We Americans” checks out. I often said to Seth, I hope you have a bibliography for this song because historians are gonna want to see it.

I put “We Americans” in the bucket with “This Land is Your Land.” And I think what’s great about “We Americans” is it goes from the idea of patriotism to paying tribute and respect. So the saying I always have is: the good, the bad, the ugly of American History. Being an American, you need to be able to recognize and somehow deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly of American history. I think what “We Americans” does, it recognizes that we need to have a certain love of our country and patriotism, but the song ends with recognizing love of God as being greater than love of country and love of one another as being greater. That’s what it means to me. I think it’s a great song. And, I think it’s a lot different than “Bang Bang” in terms of what’s controversial about it. I don’t think the subject matter of “We Americans” is controversial at all, I don’t think it should be.

Read the entire interview here.

Andrew Bacevich Defines Conservativism

After blasting the type of conservatism found on the pages of The National Review and The Weekly Standard, Andrew Bacevich, writing in The American Conservative, offers a conservative alternative.  He calls it “Counterculture Conservatism.”  Here are some its characteristics:

  • Counterculture conservatism is NOT the “conservatism” of Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, Ron Paul, Robert Murdoch, Mitt Romney, Karl Rove, or Grover Norquist.
  • Counterculture conservatism IS the “conservatism” of John Quincy Adams, Henry Adams, Randolph Bourne, Reinhold Niebuhr, Christopher Lasch, Flannery O’Connor, Wendell Berry, William Appleman Williams, and Frank Capra.
  • Counterculture conservatism protects things of lasting value.  It discriminates “between what is permanent and what is transient.”
  • Counterculture conservatism is skeptical of utopianism.
  • Counterculture conservatism celebrates community and “little platoons” (Burke) over individualism, appetite, and ambition.
  • Counterculture conservatism upholds a belief in Original Sin.
  • Counterculture conservatism favors the “local” over the “distance.”
  • Counterculture conservatism is patriotic, but does not “confuse country with state.”  America is not the military.
  • Counterculture conservatism favors change through “incremental” and “thoughtful” action.
  • Counterculture conservatism knows that it will be virtually impossible to dismantle the welfare state, outlaw abortion and gay marriage, and stop the “sexual revolution.”
  • Counterculture conservatism subordinates economic growth to the well-being of “planet Earth.”  (Bacevich: “conservatives should make common cause with tree-hugging, granola-crunching liberals”).  Sounds a lot like Rod Dreher here.
  • Counterculture conservatism opposes “the excesses of American militarism and the futility of neo-imperialistic impulses.” No neo-conservatism here.
  • Counterculture conservatism preaches fiscal responsibility
  • Counterculture conservatism believes children should be raised by traditional families.
  • Counterculture conservatism defends the health of churches and religious freedom

There is a lot here that I can embrace, if not champion.  Does that mean I am a conservative?