The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter (Review)

Myself possessing an LP collection that numbers about 30,000 (last time I counted, that is…a decade ago) and being a vinyl junkie since I latched onto the Dave Clark Five's Glad All Over (my 1st full LP after 45ing it for years) back in the 60s, I'm always well pleased when running across a group paying attention to the artfulness of its presentation in large format. The Avett Bros. made sure that aspect of The Carpenter, their seventh release, was well covered when they had artist Martin Kvamme take their delineative concept and craft it into a beautiful letterpress format for this gatefold twofer release. Kvamme's work is kind of a cross between Rick Grashow (perhaps best known for Jethro Tull's Stand Up) and Tom Wilkes (Neil Young's Harvest): stately but also informed by psychedelic-realism, so toss a little Rick Griffin in there as well. The package is eminantly pleasing to the eye and indicative of what to expect on the inside, which takes us to the music.

Readers will have to forgive my late entry in the jousting lists re: this duo, but a quick perusal of extent lit reveals the siblings are supposed to embody "punk, pop…[and] the Ramones" among numerous other virtues (that's from Wiki, so tread carefully). If so, then I'm going deaf 'cause I hear none of any of that. But, yes, they do indeed possess "light pop concision" and "tuneful jangle" within "bluegrass, country…folk, rock and roll, honky tonk" in very pleasantly surprising admixtures. Take the Peter & Gordon and Herman & The Hermits strains in "Winter in my Heart" amid a generally Ricky Nelson cum James Taylor cum Loggins & Messina landscape, and what's the difference? The Avett Bros. arrangements nicely exceed all those gents (though, truth to tell, Loggins in solo albums otherwise choked out with saccharine NuAge goopery is capable of the heights when he feels like it and when he can get his mystical mindset out of his Jai Dev Guru sweetness 'n light crotch), so you might want to stick a bit of Michael Tomlinson and Kenny Rankin in there as well, esp. in cuts like "Pretty Girl from Michigan".

In fact, there were a number of kinda-almost-right pop outfits in times past (Tuffano & Giammarese, Voudoris & Kahne, Piper, etc.) that never studied outside their narrow confines to come up with what the Avetts have hybridized so craftily and sweetly. But what the hell is with this alliance with Rick Rubin, whom I suspect to be Alan Moore's brother, and his American label (formerly Def American, formerly Def Jam)??? I mean, The Carpenter is a continent removed from the work of Masters of Reality, Danzig, Slayer, Sir Mix-a-Lot, and that crowd! Of course, the polyglot Rubin also tried re-launching Donovan and signed Dan Baird (Georgia Satelites), so, yeah, there's a simultaneity of quality here no matter what. The Bros. are always very easy on the ear, beguiling with often melancholic strains and understated classicalism (credit band member Joe Kwon's cello in large part for that), and adept at erecting an overarching sense of innocence amid worldly travails.

The boys are also attracting attention and here number such estimables as Lenny Castro (a highly rated percussion figure on the level of Alex Acuna and others) and Benmont Tench (Tom Petty) among fourteen sessioneers, so the sound occasionally gets Randy Newman-ishly large ("Down with the Shine"), but, man, if this is the true backbone of the gents, then we're going to be hearing much more from them in the future and every little bit of it's going to bear up well under a hell of a lot of re-listens.

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