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Review: The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter


The Avett Brothers

The Carpenter

By Andrew Lee

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I got to know The Avett Brothers through their album Emotionalism, but I haven't been able to get excited about anything they've put out since that record. What's going on with them? I would imagine their live shows are still great but on record they seem to have lost some of their magnetic pull. Emotionalism felt full of, well, emotion, and infectious energy - scrappy and soulful, kind of a lovable hillbilly crazy quilt of an album. 

There was something about I And Love And You that just didn't draw me in and on first listen I felt the same way about The Carpenter. The first song is great, and when I heard that acoustic guitar work I thought oh boy this is gonna be good. But things seemed to fizzle out from there...I feel guilty writing this for some reason...maybe it's not them, maybe it's me...maybe I need to spend more time with the music... 

You know, it's funny, because I turned the record on again a few minutes ago, but this time I'm listening on my headphones ... suddenly it's better. 

Suddenly I like this album. 

Songs that seemed kind of overdone before are now sounding just right. "Live and Die" doesn't seem whiny and desperate anymore. With a pair of $45 Sennheiser headphones, a high quality stream, and my full attention, whiny and desperate now sounds heartfelt and imploring, with the banjo work and other instrumental details now resonating instead of falling flat. 

"Winter in My Heart" doesn't seem boring and corny or like one of those weird slow numbers from The Muppet Show anymore - it seems like it's honest and delicate and kind of sad, and hey, maybe this actually would have been great on The Muppet Show - Kermit would certainly approve of the sentiment... 

And then comes "Pretty Girl from Michigan" and this time I notice the lyric "You go back to the high life and I'll go back to the low - I should have known..." And this time the vocals, piano, strings, and plodding fuzzed out guitar work combine for a very Beatles Abbey Road-period flavor. 

At the beginning of the next track a bit of Avett Brothers banter gets caught on tape - someone says "Roll it just like we been running. Feeling good" Then the band kicks into a high-energy kiss-off number called "I Never Knew You," loaded with Beatlesque backup vocals and harmonies. 

Again with the Beatles references, I know, but once I actually paid attention to this album I started to hear and feel the heart behind it - and whether they were happy or sad or high, the Beatles had loads of heart. Well, the Avett Brothers have it too, and I guess I'll have to work my way back through their catalog now - this time I'll bring my headphones and I'll try to pay closer attention. 

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