Album Review: The Avett Brothers ‘The Carpenter’
Building off the success of their first major label debut I and Love and You, the Avett Brothers are back with their special mix of gut-wrenching vocals and banjo-filled “grasspunk” in a new album entitled The Carpenter. Yes, the banjo is back! The longevity and consistency should not be overlooked, as it doesn’t matter how many albums they’ve released, this band from North Carolina manages to exude the same level of free-spiritedness, forceful balladry, and a sense of optimism that infuses their rich and varied sound.
The Carpenter is the band’s second Rick Rubin-produced album and their passionate fan base will be pleased that the vocals of Seth and Scott Avett remain unencumbered by any one genre and they sing to their heart’s content by switching with ease from rollicking numbers to somber soliloquies. The Avett Brothers have to be one of the best bands when it comes to seamlessly transitioning from hard and soft, or fast and slow—not only between different songs but within one song as well.
Mortality and death are pervasive themes on this album and have become understandably more apparent in the music of the Avett Brothers, as bassist Bob Crawford has been dealing with the tragic news that his two-year-old daughter has brain cancer. For instance, on the song “The Once And Future Carpenter” they sing “And when the black cloak drags upon the ground/ I’ll be ready to surrender, and remember/ Well we’re all in this together/ If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Scott Avett commented the following: “As we get older, a lot of the things we said in the past that we thought we believed about understanding life or death, I don’t know that we understood them as well as we do now and I don’t know that we understand them now, but we’re closer to an understanding. The hard times with Bob and his daughter’s illness was something that we woke up to and changed our lives entirely.”
The Avett Brothers are masters at allowing the universality of the human condition – both good and bad – to shine through their music and The Carpenter is no different. We may be powerless in the face of so much of what life throws at us, but music can certainly made the ride a little easier.