Friday, November 20, 2009

Heading Out with The Avett Brothers

It has been said that there are only two stories - a stranger comes to town and someone goes on a journey.

With The Avett Brothers' major label debut, I and Love and You, the boys take the latter. Actually, there are multiple journeys. The engaging album mines the familiar territory of documenting the journeys contained in romance and relationships. A topic that takes full use of the brothers' harmonies and orchestrations.

But, there is more going on here.

The album also represents the band's current journey from its North Carolina roots to a much wider audience. From its bluegrass beginnings to its new mixture of pop/alternative folk. To put it simply, less banjo, more piano and strings. And the piano is not a rootsy Garth Hudson, but more like fellow Tar Heel Ben Folds' hard-driving piano.

However, there is still a trace of the band's bluegrass background. The disc's second track, January Wedding, is a beautiful banjo stroll. But make no mistake, The Avett Brothers are no longer a bluegrass band.

A large part of this musical advancement coincides with the group's jump to Sony and the accompanying Rick Rubin production. The album is, at times, beautiful. The harmonies soar. The strings rise and fall. There is definitively a sheen with this bunch. Not much of the grittiness that helps define other hirsute harmony fanatics, such as Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper.

That is not a complaint. The album has been on a steady rotation in my house for weeks and it will be there awhile.

Perhaps the best song of the album, or even in the group's burgeoning career, is the opening title track - an anthem about "heading north" (another journey!) and out into the world. The chorus is impossible to resist. Nor do you want to.

The Avett Brothers head out on the road at the beginning of the year. No Florida dates yet.

I and Love and You” by The Avett Brothers (mp3)(iTunes)(Amazon)