Album Review: The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter

The Avett Brothers have made six full length albums, four EPs and three live albums. Today they came out with their seventh album The Carpenter and it seems like this band can do no wrong. The Carpenter is filled with perfect little catchy songs that you will be singing along with after just one listen. It is considerably darker as far as lyrical content, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the jingle jangle of the banjo that Scott Avett plays like Kurt Cobain played a Fender.

“Live and Die” is the first single and it is so upbeat that it took me a few listens to realize how dark it starts out.

All it will take is just one moment and
you can say goodbye to how we had it planned
Fear like a habit run like a rabbit out and away
through the screen door to the unknown

It’s the darkest album they’ve done thus far, well dark by their standards anyway. The reason for that has been the struggle bassist Bob Crawford’s family has suffered as his two year old daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year. The band has rallied around him, as he and his wife have taken their daughter in for test after test to see if they can save their little girl. He’s missed time as the band has toured, but they are such an impossibly tight group that if one member suffers, they all suffer.

Through all of that pain, struggle, agony and suffering the band has created one of the best records of the year. It is such a conundrum from lyrics to tonality that it almost becomes antithetical to try and wrap your mind around the differences. They’ve also added another addition to their “Pretty Girl…” series. This time “Pretty Girl from Michigan” is the location. They skipped that on 2009’s epic I and Love and You. They also, finally, recorded “Down with the Shine” a song that has been in every live show I’ve ever attended and simply has never been put in recorded album form.

This album is rougher and faster than I and Love and You was. It has an edge to it that they haven’t had since very early in their career. I don’t want to give the illusion that this is some sort of punk rock bluegrass album. “Winter in my Heart’ is such a haunting, mournful, slow song that it couldn’t be construed as anything but a processionary hymn. It’s reminiscent of a Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen song as it ambles in and the instruments flow in one by one, but the primary instruments throughout are the voices. The Avett Brothers have once again done something so many bands find impossible…they have created yet another album that is beautifully constructed and eminently flawless from beginning to end. The energy and talent within the ranks of this band is like nothing else around today. The Avett Brothers are at the peak of their powers and it’s not even close.

The Avett Brothers album The Carpenter is out today from Rick Rubin’s American Recordings.

The Avett Brothers are on tour through October…at least for now.

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