Album of the Week: The Avett Brothers, 'True Sadness'

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The Avett Brothers, 'True Sadness'
The Avett Brothers, 'True Sadness' (American Recordings)

Before the invasion of the Brits with banjos, the folk revival was well underway in the United States. Following in the alt-country footsteps of Uncle Tupelo, The Jayhawks, and Lucinda Williams, millennials took hold of a new blend of American music. The new Americana is less country and less alternative than the short-lived movement of the '90s, which could be why it's taken longer to capture the attention of the masses. If you haven't been following their career, The Avett Brothers have emerged as the key act redefining the genre.

Making stadium stops across the country this summer, the Avetts have refused to compromise their sound while still growing in popularity. They have resisted the temptation to make a rock album to appease the taste of the mainstream. Instead, their ninth studio album stays true to the folk traditions they honor and the sheer authenticity that makes them hard to resist.

True Sadness isn't an inviting title, but the idea of an album that exposes the truly sad parts of life is profound. The Avetts seem to approach True Sadness through the lens of their personal lives, rather than tackle global issues and politics. Much like on their earlier releases Emotionalism and I and Love and You, Seth and Scott Avett weave stories from their personal lives into the new album.

The songs on True Sadness are introspective and autobiographical while conveying universal feelings of regret, denial and heartbreak. The traditional folk arrangements and instrumentation on True Sadness lift you up instead of dragging you down. Like singing the blues, it all feels therapeutic for the Avetts. Songs like "Divorce Separation Blues" humanizes a common experience that Seth Avett personally went through before making the new album.

While The Avett Brothers stick to their acoustic instrumentations, cascading guitar melodies and breathtaking harmonies on True Sadness, there are moments of experimentation. The title track infuses elements of lightly distorted rhythm guitar and tightly crafted drums (which sound possibly sequenced), yet they don't betray their roots. Listen to the string-laden "Fisher Road To Hollywood" or the romp-stomping country feel on "Ain't No Man" to understand where The Avett Brothers come from and just how great they have become.

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  • The Avett Brothers perform in The Current studio In town for a show at Target Center with Brandi Carlile, the Avett Brothers stopped in The Current's studio for a session, during which they played some songs from their forthcoming album, 'True Sadness.' Watch two videos and hear the entire session.
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