James Gregory’s statement that “The great migrations of the twentieth century were worked into stories that had more to do with difficulties that with triumphs, with dreams unmet rather than with dreams fulfilled, with tragedy and failure rather than with simple heroics” immediately brought to mind the song “I and Love and You” by the Avett Brothers. Like the stories described in Gregory’s book, this song tells the story of people who “are headed north.”
The migration in the song is given a sense of urgency and desperation by the lyric “I cut the ties and jumped the track/for never to return.” The subjects seem to have reached a breaking point that has forced them to suddenly leave, telling only “the ones that need to know.” The lyrics also convey a wistfulness and sense of sadness, as the narrator in the song notes that “my hands they shake/my head it spins” while imploring “Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in.” Like many who left the South in the 20th century, the subjects are seeking a better life in the North, but a happy ending is in no way assured.
The Avett Brothers hail from North Carolina, and their music reflects a strong southern twang. Although nominally an indie rock band, they are heavily influenced by folk rock and country music. Like the country music Gregory discusses, the Avett Brothers have also seen their music commercialized. “I and Love and You” is the title track from their major-label debut, and many reviewers have noted that this album smooths out the rough edges of their previous albums in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience.