Saturday, October 31, 2009

Avett Brothers,Backwards, Part I

Another musical admission on my part. I had never listened to, much less owned, an Avett Brothers album prior to this month. That is notable because if the two albums I now have in my possession--which have been on almost constant play for two or three weeks--are any indication, I am a huge Avetts fan. I knew they were out there. I knew lots of people who admired their work. I just never acted on that information. Until now.

It started with NPR's All Songs Considered streaming the new album I & Love & You which I listened to repeatedly (while concentrating deeply on my work of course). I couldn't listen all that closely but I could tell I liked it and away we went. Now I know that this album, their first on a major label, has been received a lukewarm response from the critics for not being as cutting edge and adventuresome, for being sappy and not "true" enough--but really that narrative is so predictable it isn't worth worrying over. Then again, who am I to say since I am coming at their work from this perspective?

Well, here are a few of the reasons I have been enjoying this album and we will get to the Brothers in general in a minute.
  • The album as a whole is uplifting which is not to say that all the songs are happy or upbeat, although some certainly are. It is uplifting to me because the lyrics seem primarily about trying to deal with life--the good, bad, happy, sad--as it comes without overstatement. They realize certain things at this point in their life but aren't preaching to anyone that they have all the answers. It is what it is.
  • The music is simply put, beautiful. The arrangements have plenty going on but with lots of space among the instruments. This is helped by a really wonderful mix where each instrument comes out clean but integrated. And of course, that all rides on top of simply wonderful songs.
  • Even if they are not as adventuresome here, it is clear that these guys have a good understanding of a wide range of music and the influences, from bluegrass to jazz to blues comes through.
  • And ultimately it is perhaps because the music speaks to me both lyrically and musically.
Now I am going to try to be less mp3 heavy here in the new space (and somehow I imagine Sony will swoop down in a heartbeat if I sample this album), so here is the title track video. This tune which opens the album, definitely exemplifies the "here is where I am at in life" now approach of many of the songs. It is one of the many fine ballads on the album, but there are certainly other more upbeat tunes and also darker songs as well.

Now in the interest of time (mine and yours), I will come back to these brothers in another post to look at an earlier effort as I work my way back through their catalog.

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