The Avett Brothers
Few bands these days truly earn their stripes. When it comes to breaking it big commercially, it’s usually one hit single or a spot in a cutesy ad that gets a band to blow up. Think fun., Carly Rae Jepsen, Gotye, and Alex Clare. Not to say that it’s wrong to break big with one hit or that those songs are inherently bad – since actually most are actually good – but its way more rewarding and refreshing to see a band earn it the hard way. I already spoke of My Morning Jacket being a band that fits that bill, but another industrious, hard-working band that fits the mold is Carolina folk trio, the Avett Brothers. Over the last ten years, the Brothers have been evolving their irreverent yet reflective brand of alt-country on the stage and on record, finally breaking out with the help of a high profile producer, Rick Rubin, for their brilliant fifth album I and Love and You. On their latest, The Carpenter, the Avett Brothers again get aid from Rubin and stick in the pocket of their signature sound, sounding as confident as ever while crafting some of the best folk pop around.
“The Once and Future Carpenter” opens on a truly life-giving note, a song about thankfulness for the blessing and the purpose of life without seeming forced or sappy like so many country tunes. Scott and Seth Avett have a gift for writing lyric couplets and brilliantly illustrative verses like they are proverbs, beautifully showcased on “Carpenter”. A couple examples are “Now I spend my days in search of a woman we called purpose/And if I ever pass back through her town I’ll stay” and “Once I was a carpenter, man my hands were calloused/I could swing a metal mallet sure and straight/But I took to the highway, a poet young and hungry/And I left the timbers where they lay.” What’s amazing about the Avett Brothers writing is how consistent and effortless it is, and how it’s so rare to speak sincerely without an ounce of irony or bitterness about life and actually pull it off. Such straight forward sincerity on songs like “Winter in my Heart” and “Live and Die” are usually hokey in less capable hands, but the Avett Brothers find a way to make these songs downright endearing.
Sticking within the framework of American roots music with an ounce of indie rock angst, the Avett Brothers knock through some of the more up-tempo pieces including “I Never Knew You”, “Geraldine”, and “Paul Newman vs. Demons” with effortlessness and the proverbial spring in their step. “I Never Knew You” opens with some studio banter before kicking through the cathartic breakup song, swinging through call-and-response and harmony vocals for what is sure to be a crowd-pleaser live. “Geraldine” comes in at a measly 1:37 but its chock full with three spirited verses, driving piano line, a determined chorus, and loads of energy to boot. The short and sweet “Geraldine” leads into the most distorted and angsty song the Avett Brothers have released, “Paul Newman vs. Demons”, a big drudging rock opus that does feel a little too big for its britches.
Country balladry at its best can be found on “Down With The Shine” and “A Father’s First Spring”, two songs big on Appalachian harmonies and simple sincerity. “Down With The Shine” is the ever rare moonshine drinking song that also passes a proverb about the fleeting nature of the good times, making for the best drinking song to stare in the mirror and deep into your soul to. “A Father’s First Spring” is to a new father what “January Wedding” was for love struck fiancés: a radiant reflection on one of the most beautiful parts of life.
The Carpenter ends on a pleasantly-plucked ballad “Life”, the most generic song title of all time – beside maybe “Untitled” and “Home” that is. Somehow the band gets away with it though speaking to the distinctive quality that sets the Avett Brothers apart: singing about life and love in simple rural terms with a youthful glee and a timeless guile well beyond their years. The Avett Brothers are the carpenters of folk on The Carpenter: crafting simple tactile songs with dexterity, artistry, and ease.
Can’t Miss: “Geraldine”, “The Once and Future Carpenter”, “Down With The Shine”
Can’t Hit: “Through My Prayers”, “Paul Newman vs. Demons”