Album of the week : Magpie And The Dandelion - The Avett Brothers

There’s no shortage of reasons why the Avett Brothers have become the darlings of the Americana crowd, and every one of them is evident on Magpie and the Dandelion, the band’s latest superb offering

Recorded at the same sessions that produced 2012′s The Carpenter, 2013′s Magpie doesn’t play like leftovers, which is to the credit of both the Avett Brothers and their producer Rick Rubin. Magpie consciously evokes past Americana, stretching back beyond The Band but anchored there, often incorporating a harder-rocking edge reminiscent of former Rubin patrons Black Crowes. The key to appreciating the Avett Brothers is to realise they see themselves as heirs to this tradition, happy to accentuate their rustic roots with banjos and weary harmonies because they suggest authenticity. Where their real strength lies is not in instrumental virtuosity or song (although many of the tunes here are sturdy enough) but rather in feel: they capture an indistinct past where guitars are an enduring virtue

The Avett Brothers’ sound has undoubtedly grown bigger and larger, fuller and brighter. Take for instance the second track on Magpie: ‘Morning Song’. Towards the end of it, there’s practically a full-on choir belting out the hook, which in the grand scheme of the Avett’s discography, is a wild departure from their earlier, understated tracks like January Wedding or their breakout hit, I and Love and You. Lyrically, the themes are bigger as well. Magpie’s first single, ‘Another is Waiting’, focuses on the downfall of celebrity, while older Avett songs explore more intimate themes spotlighting the intricacies of human love and relationships

The forlorn desire inherent in songs such as ‘Never Been Alive’ offers another indication of the innate vulnerability that’s endeared them to their admirers. For the most part, the songs are simply stated – whether it’s the simple acoustic set-up on ‘Bring Your Love to Me’ or the opening melody of ‘Good to You’, which sounds so eerily like the beginning of Norwegian Wood

Magpie is chock full of tracks that show the Avett Brothers are (very wisely) growing their sound, while remaining true to their core principles and what listeners like about them to begin with. Even one of Magpie’s strongest songs, ‘Open Ended Life’, alludes to this fact with its chorus stating, “I was told to keep an open ended life/to never trap yourself in nothing.” The last thing the Avett Brothers are doing is trapping themselves, but all the while they still execute this delicate dance of staying grounded with who they really are - arguably thanks to Rubin’s help

It’s clear with this latest effort that the Avett Brothers don’t care much for recent trends and don’t chase after something they think their fans “want” them to be, but instead is a pure taste of raw musical expression, and the resulting effort is that each track is better than the next. The Avett Brothers have established a singular style. And with it, a well-deserved reputation that assures their place among the best of the breed

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