Have you ever had a friend who was, let’s say, pleasantly plain but in a way that really suited them, and then one day they do something really drastic like get a super trendy haircut or decide to dress in the latest trends? It’s a big adjustment at first and you kind of want to ask them what in the heck they were thinking…but then over time those trendy things sort of become that person. You don’t notice them anymore because deep down that person is still the same person you love. If you know that feeling at all, you will know how I feel about the Avett Brothers’ newest release I and Love and You.
It must be said that I am an unswerving Avett Brother’s fan and have been for many years. And as I’ve previously mentioned, I tend to have problems honestly critiquing albums of beloved artists because my loyalty tends to trump my discernment. That being said, you may not can hold me to any of the following rants because I like these guys. And although they have chosen to take a slightly different path with this album, its still got Avett Brothers written all over it.
This time last year, the Avett Brothers were just a raggedy old bluegrass band who sang songs about pretty girls from Chile, Cedar Lane and Matthews. And this is the AB that I fell in love with: simple music, mostly banjoes, acoustic guitars and drums all brought together by loud twangy harmonies. It is the stuff of southern road-trips, bonfires and cook-outs.
This year is a completely different story. The Avett Brothers decided the time was right to grab a larger audience and see how far their alt-country wings could take them. The resulting album is as close to mainstream as I can ever imagine these guys will get.
With the help of super producer Rick Rubin, the band took their usually stripped down sound and incorporated strings and piano to create a much larger, fuller sound. And much to my relief, the band’s vocals and lyrics have been relatively unaffected. They still have a distinct southern drawl and they still sing sweet little love songs (of which “January Wedding” is my favorite).
And love is not the only theme. It wouldn’t be an Avett Brother’s album without themes of insecurity, doubt and fear, and this album is no exception. Scott and Seth Avett are nothing, if not impeccable song writers. They pen songs that could make the most hard-hearted person tear up, myself included.
Although I am impressed by the band’s latest effort and I am proud of this album, I’m not going to jump the gun and say this is the best album they have ever made. In fact, if I were important enough to file a complaint with this album, it would be that it’s almost too packed with power ballads for my taste. With the exception of “Kick Drum Heart” and “Slight Figure of Speech,” the album is comprised almost solely of piano ballads seemingly designed for the purpose of keeping the ladies swooning. I wish there was a little more of the up-tempo vibe you get from seeing the band live incorporated into the album: just good-old-fashion loud, stomping, singing-at-the-top-of your-lungs kind of music.
With mixed emotions, I see that the whole world has suddenly fallen in love with this little backwoods North Carolina band, and I really can’t blame them. Selfishly, I wish that I could keep them a secret a little longer and not have to fuss with big, impersonal venues and music videos on VH1, but I guess I can’t help but be excited that people get to fall in love with this band I love so much. (But just a suggestion, check out their back catalog as well. You won’t be disappointed!)