North Carolina folk-pop-rock The Avett Brothers follow-up their 2009, Rick Rubin produced US breakthrough record, ‘I And Love And You’ with another beautifully crafted collection of songs from the heart and from the road with The Carpenter.
Arguably one of the finest, most visceral live acts of recent years, it was the release of ‘I And Love And You’ which debuted in the Billboard Top 20, that introduced the band into the wider public’s consciousness. Their hard-earned success culminated in a notable performance at the 2011 Grammy Awards alongside Bob Dylan and Mumford & Sons, covering Dylan’s ‘Maggie’s Farm’ and performing their own, ‘Head Full Of Doubt, Road Full Of Promises’.
Both old and new fans will find much to love on this new record. The discipline that Rubin imposed on ‘I And Love And You’ is evident once more on The Carpenter, an album that is best described as ‘poetry from the soul’. It is a record that reflects the brothers’ journey toward growing older and the unavoidable realities that await.
“For me, in the process between I and Love and You and this album, there have really been three years of me trying to refine a series of steps of letting go of certain things I’ve held on to,” Scott says. “This album feels much more like a whole of refined parts that work together — sort of like a well-oiled motor — than records in the past did. I feel it is much more a cohesive work.”
Seth agrees: “When we made I and Love and You we were processing quite a lot. We were looking to step up in a lot of ways. I and Love and You is a product of us taking a step into a sizable room that we did not know and were not completely at ease with.” That room included working with a world-renowned producer, session musicians, and a major record label for the first time, with all the accompanying pressures and expectations. “We feel like we have our sea legs now. We’re well into this second era of our band’s journey. Being comfortable there, knowing what our capabilities are, knowing what we can do, freed us up to really focus on the songs, and not be distracted by the adjustments.”
And those songs, they do what all great writing must: explore and illuminate the human experience. The haunting “Winter in My Heart” speaks to the hopelessness of depression. “Through My Prayers” is a song of regret; the narrator has lost a loved one and knows there were things he needed to say that now will go forever unsaid. The anthem-like “Down With the Shine” reflects on the futility of trying to defy time and aging. “A Father’s First Spring” describes new fatherhood and how children change everything.
“This album covers the most ground as far as experience. I guess that’s unavoidable considering we’re older than we’ve ever been,” Seth says with a laugh. “It definitely feels like our most mature effort in many ways, and certainly like the most purposeful.”
“I and Love of You was a younger man’s album because we were younger men,” bassist Crawford, agrees. “We were in the beginning of marriage and just the very beginning of fatherhood. And this album is more grown up. It’s looking farther down that road. Seeing mortality closer and clearer than we’ve ever seen it before.”
“Several of the songs are very close to us, where you wear your heart on your sleeve,” Scott adds. “They’re very exposing of ourselves and our feelings. We don’t do so well with fiction. Everything is rooted in some real-life experience for us.”
One real-life experience that has profoundly shaken the Avetts’ world came in August 2011 as the band was putting the final touches on The Carpenter. The members were stepping off an airplane in Charlotte when Crawford learned his 18-month-old daughter Hallie had been rushed to the hospital in convulsions. Scott, Seth, and touring cellist Joe Kwon accompanied Crawford to the hospital where he and his wife, Melanie, would learn their daughter had a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer. “It was an earthquake of the soul,” Seth recalls.
The crisis put everything in perspective for the band members and reminded them what matters most in life. “Those guys were just there for us. In shifts. Together. They were there,” Crawford recalls, emotion in his voice. “Just an amazing testament to who your friends are. It made me realize how deep the relationship runs, and how truly a brother I am.”
The good news is a year later Hallie is responding to treatment and holding her own. Bob and Melanie are cherishing each day with her. And the band that is more brotherhood than business is stronger than ever.
As Scott put it: “Seth, Bob and I are more of a unit than we used to be, not just as musicians but as men who think together and in line with each other. This album is a product of three men who are very unified in how they feel.”
Crawford sees it on an even more personal level: ““Listening to these songs with the background of what has gone on in my life, it has taken the album to a whole next level for me. All those words, and all those songs, and all that sentiment, it’s got currency behind it. It’s real.”
1. The Once and Future Carpenter
2. Live and Die
3. Winter in My Heart
4. Pretty Girl From Michigan
5. I Never Knew You
6. February Seven
7. Through My Prayers
8. Down With the Shine
9. A Fathers First Spring
11. Paul Newman vs. The Demons
Release Date: 5th November 2012 via American Recordings/Island Records
UK dates to be annouced soon