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Album Review: I and Love and You by The Avett Brothers

avett_brothers By: Erik Cunningham

I think there is a logical fear everytime someones favorite independent or mid label band signs a deal with a major label. Lord knows the major label is going to over produce a record, whore a band out, and turn them into something they are not. Just ask MC Hammer, who was an acoustic musician before he was 2 Legit 2 Quit.

That having been said I found myself smitten with this fear when The Avett Brothers signed with American Records an offshoot of Columbia Records run by big time producer Rick Rubin. You know the guy with the big creepy beard who got his start working with Run DMC and The Beastie Boys and just produced Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” earlier this year.

Rubin is a slick dude whose records ooze high production, the Avett’s are a band who are built around their live shows and their ability to capture that seem live feel on record. Those aesthetics should clash together and sometimes they do on the Avett’s latest disk “I and Love and You,” but for the most part the union is a smooth one.

The one thing that fans are either going to love or hate on this disk is that the Avett’s traditional Guitar-Banjo-Stand Up Bass-Occassional Cello has been thrown out the window for the majority of “I and Love and You.” Larger arrangements often featuring full on string ensembles, drums and a whole lot of piano dominate most of the record. This is clearly influenced by Rubin. Gone are the cacophony of banjo rolls, furious guitar strums, and voice creaking yelps for the most part.

That having been said the songwriting on this album is perhaps the strongest it’s ever been. Dumbed down and numbed by time and age/your dreams the catch/the world the cage Scott Avett croons on the opening title track. If You’re loved by someone/ you’re never rejected/ decide what to be and go be it he sings on “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise” another strong track. Both of those songs are piano heavy, and beautifully arranged, you wouldn’t want the standard Avett set up for songs like those. It a sign of the band maturing both musically and lyrically and it’s very exciting sonically.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t signs of the old Avett Brother’s on this disk though either. The song “January Wedding” oozes old school Avett Bros. With Seth singing a simple love song over the classic guitar-banjo-stand up bass combo. “Kick Drum Heart” is a sure single that is insanely fun and has the racousness of “Will You Return” off of the bands last full length “Emotionalism.” Laundry Room is another upbeat song, but one has to see it played live to truly appreciate it.

If one song is going to sum up the album and the new look of the band though one needs to give “The Perfect Space” a listen. The song starts out with piano and strings, but later picks up the pacing with some upbeat verses and soaring howling vocals. A perfect mixture between the old and the new.

The Album also has it’s not so great moments however. It comes off as over produced in a couple of songs. “Tin Man” features an impromptu trumpet part in one of the verses that left me scratching my head. At times you almost find yourself screaming for Scott Avett to just go crazy on his banjo, but you never get it except the aforementioned “January Wedding” and perhaps a little in “Laundry Room.”

I don’t like bands that sound the same on every record, and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say the Avett’s have reinvented themselves I would say they have taken a step in a different direction. Rick Ruben has made the band more polished and less brash and while it works most of the time, fans will also be asking where some of the fire from past albums is. Lyrically the music is the best it’s ever been.

Do yourself a favor pick up the disk, and then go see these songs performed live. The Avett Brothers have always sounded better in concert and I’m sure this album will be no exception.

Must Listen to: Laundry Room, Kick Drum Heart, I and Love and You, The Perfect Space, Head Full of Doubt Road Full of Promise.


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