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The Avett Brothers, ‘The Carpenter’ – Album Review

The Carpenter

Mixing ramshackle, Keruoac-style love yarns and soul-lovin’, blue-eyed, Southern-fried, god-bless-America bluegrass, the Avett Brothers return with ‘The Carpenter,’ another salve for the modern soul. When Scott Avett says, “If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die,” you know he’s speaking truth.

That’s the refrain on ‘The Once and Future Carpenter,’ the tune that opens the sixth album from a North Carolina band that’s gone from novelty to curiosity to mainstay, and whose aw-shucks authenticity has captured the hearts of more than a few college towns. In conversation, onstage and in the studio, Scott and his bandmates exude a certain Christian charm; when he talks of having once been a carpenter or living like a pharaoh and singing like a sparrow, that religiosity arrives naturally, in a way that’s universally understood. “Live and die, we’re the same / You and I, we’re the same,” he sings in ‘Live and Die,’ a Dixie way of saying, “We’re all in this together.”

But enough gushing. Though sweet, some tracks lack substance. ‘Winter In My Heart’ is musically and lyrically predictable, and despite its awesome title, ‘Paul Newman vs. The Demons’ wears thin, what with all the yeah-yeah-yeahs. It’s a song that feels ripe with effort, if not inspiration. This suggests another meaning of the album’s title: Carpenters swing hammers; Avetts make music. As Scott told me in our interview, he has found something spiritual in the effort of creation — that is, making music is sometimes a labor of love and a labor of labor.

That said, the Brothers still traffic in magic, what with the new-grass sparkle of ‘Running My Mouth,’ with its ooh-ooh-oohs and “I didn’t even know you then.” The most affecting moment might come via the confession of faith ‘Fortune,’ an existential search that concludes, “As a last breathe was drawn from me, the light broke in and brought me to my feet.” ‘Through My Prayers,” a gorgeous paean to the dearly departed, also plays like a hymnal. The most winsome track has got to be ‘The Day I Met Eleanor,’ where Scott says, “I was homesick for you since the day that we met.” What a dreamboat that boy is.

Of course, his music is quite adult, but it retains that adorable quality. The Avetts are that special kind of band that grow with their listeners. For both, ‘The Carpenter’ is a small work of wonder.


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