Album | The Avett Brothers – The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers may not think so, but they are no ordinary band, and their new, self-titled album proves that point in spades. They have a way of making music that incorporates virtually everything while remaining tinged with folk and country roots. They can rock with the best of them, yet they also can become North Carolina’s answer to the Beach Boys. Quite simply they make music unlike anyone else.

Now in their mid-forties, brothers Scott and Seth Avett, along with Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon have found a way to create music that is impossible to pigeonhole. Their longtime producer, Rick Rubin (yes the same Rick Rubin who’s produced the Beastie Boys) shows there’s virtually nothing he can’t produce and make intriguing. A song like ‘Cheap Coffee’ has so many different elements that one might be tempted to accuse him of over producing it, but nothing could be further from the truth. Clocking in at just over seven minutes it goes by in the blink of an eye. The production is crisp and clean, highlighting their gorgeous voices.

Along the way banjos and synths come into play, never sounding out of place, merely adding more texture to a band finds ways to challenge themselves and their audience. From the country rock of ‘Orion’s Belt’, with violin blazing to the confessional tone of ‘2020 Regret’, Seth and Scott Avett show the truths that make them human. “We were holding hands when the ground beneath us slipper/ Now we’re barreling down the mountain, don’t let go.” The song concludes with lines making it clear, despite things done and things left undone, love is still there, “Lord, I regret plenty with this 2020 view/ But the faults all mine/ ‘Cause there’s never been a time/ I regreted time with you.”

Listening to the “Vocal Prelude” of ‘Never Apart’, one is stunned by the way the song has the same vocal qualities that The Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills & Nash used 50 years earlier. When you can sing like that it’s hard not to be impressed, especially when Rubin starts fading in a variety of instruments that lead into a lyric making it clear, “Life cannot be written/ It only can be lived.” There’s such a purity to the song and the sentiment, especially the final lines, “And I don’t have to miss you/ We’ll never be apart.”

Closing the album, ‘We Are Loved’ initially sounds like little more than a guitar and a voice, yet the message coming through is one that needs to be remembered, “If we are spirits or we are human/ Crossing the river, harboring change/ If we deny it or if we taste it/ May we embrace it, we are loved.” In those moments the purity of the performance matches the purity of the sentiment. 

On their 11th album in 24 years, there’s very little left The Avett Brothers need to prove, yet this is an album as good as anything they have recorded. Listening and learning they have taken their own path and it shows in every note.