Album Review: The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter

by Lindsay Kimball

It's been three years but The Avett Brothers are back with a new album, The Carpenter, the follow up to 2009's I and Love and You. The band teamed up with producer Rick Rubin again, who does a masterful job at bringing out the best assets in their bluegrass folk-rock — beautiful harmonies, catchy melodies and strong songwriting.

Growing up as the grandsons of a minister, Scott and Seth Avett learned the value of storytelling early. This is evident during their unlikely banjo-heavy lead single, "Live and Die," has the band examining death — a reoccurring motif on the album.

"Through My Prayers" is about not being able to say what you want before someone close to you passes away, "it feels like no one understands / And now my only chance / to talk to you is through my prayers / I only wanted to tell you I care."

The Carpenter is more introspective, personal and authentic — a sign that the brothers aren't young bachelors anymore. Songs like "Winter in my Heart" and the final track, "Life," are this album's "Murder in the City" equivalent. Fans of The Avett Brothers know what I'm talking about. They're slow, reflective, heavy-with-harmonies, tug-at-your-heartstrings ballads that — no matter how many times you hear them — still get to you.

While many of the songs on The Carpenter convey a serious tone, The Avett Brothers still hold true to one tradition: writing songs about a "pretty girl." Since their first albums from the early 2000s, the North Carolina rockers always feature songs titled "Pretty Girl from the Airport" or "Pretty Girl from Cedar Lane" or "Pretty Girl from Raleigh." The list goes on. There are three "Pretty Girls" on their 2003 A Caroline Jubilee alone! There's only one on the new album — "Pretty Girl from Michigan." The love songs keep the album light despite heavy themes like death and depression, as do songs like the 97-second"Geraldine" and the kind-of face-melter "Paul Newman Vs. The Demons."

The Carpenter captures life's joys and sorrows, focusing on the highs and lows of human emotion — the feelings that make life authentic.

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