Album Review: The Avett Brothers, 'Magpie and the Dandelion'

by Bill DeVille

The Avett Brothers' new album, 'Magpie and the Dandelion'.
The Avett Brothers' new album, 'Magpie and the Dandelion'. (© 2013 American Recordings.)

 
A little over a dozen years ago, a couple of brothers and a friend formed a little band in North Carolina. They dug playing real fast and did a lot of "hootin' and hollerin" as they barnstormed the rock clubs of the USofA. They had more in common with punk rock than bluegrass. As the band continued touring and recording, their sound has lost some of those rough edges.

The Avett Brothers have become more of a song band. They sing deeply personal songs that often strike a chord with their fans. The band were heading in a direction that may have alienated some of their original fans, but they have bigger aspirations than plunkin' banjo tunes on the beer-hall circuit. Largely, The Avett Brothers haven't lost the charm that got them where they are today. Most artists' music gets slicker and more refined as they hone their craft and become more proficient on their instruments. The Avett Brothers are no different.

The Avett Brothers have a new album called Magpie and the Dandelion. Their eighth album is the third in a row with superstar producer Rick Rubin. This one sounds a lot like its predecessor, The Carpenter; most of the songs were recorded during those same sessions.

Magpie and the Dandelion starts out like a house afire — "Open-Ended Life" might be the most country-rockin' tune they've recorded! The opener on the album ought to be a closer in their set for years to come! This song chugs along like the little engine that could and turns anthem-like as it builds over Scott and Seth Avett singing, "I was taught to keep an open-ended life/And never trap myself in nothing."

Next is "Morning Song"; this is the prettiest song on the album. A full choir joins in mid-song, giving it little bit of a gospel feel. Magpie and the Dandelion loses a little steam from there and falls into the slower, mid-tempo ballad territory the Avett Brothers have been living in lately. At least they haven't forgotten the trusty banjo that's been lacking the last couple of albums. Several tracks feature it, including "Another is Waiting," which is a short, concise, sunny little tune that you can hum along to. "Skin and Bones" is another winner. Its features Scott and Seth's best vocal on the record!

I think the best song on the album is "Part From Me," a song they performed live at The Current last June. This "break-up"song is a real tearjerker.

The most surprising song on the album is "Vanity." The Avetts put away the banjo on this one; they sound more electric than they ever have. It could almost pass for a Paul McCartney and Wings' tune from the '70s.

With winter setting in and those colder temperatures upon us, light the fireplace and give Magpie and the Dandelion a spin. It'll warm your heart and soul.

Have you heard the album? What do you think of it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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