The Brothers are back: New music from Avetts

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The punk-infused bluegrass group from Concord, N.C. is Southern simplicity and frenetic energy all shaken up in a Mason jar. The Avett Brothers’ sixth studio album, “The Carpenter”, illustrates how these musical qualities have developed with the band’s lyrical dedication to progress, hard work and introspection.
Since their first studio album in 2002, original members Seth and Scott Avett and Bob Crawford have learned how to incorporate the more classical sounds of Joe Kwon’s cello and the versatile rhythm of Joe Edwards’ drums without abandoning the intricate banjo and guitar that make their sound unique.
“The Carpenter” tends to focus on a softer piano and a gentler use of electric instruments than their earlier albums, even in their plaintively soulful “Pretty Girl From Michigan”, the newest installment of their “Pretty Girl From (Place)” collection of songs. Vocal harmonies don’t stray from the melody as often as in the earlier, more rebellious tracks of their previous albums. Yet the uplifting and easy vocals still manage to foster that youthful enthusiasm in songs like “Live and Die” and “I Never Knew You.” And while The Avetts include their personal acoustic sadness in songs like “Winter in my Heart” and “Through My Prayers,” they never forget to throw a surprise hook preventing their sadness from settling too comfortably.
Lyrically, “The Carpenter” still deals with the introspection and regret of earlier Avetts’ albums like the  2006 release “Four Thieves Gone” and the 2007 release “Emotionalism”. But they follow each mention of hopelessness with a declaration of purpose in tracks like “Down with the Shine”. And while earlier songs illustrate love and affection, “A Father’s First Spring” matures these emotions in a beautiful reflection of the experience of new life and parenthood. One of the few songs that deal with the promise of life in their newest album, this track brings the Avetts away from introspective worries about shame and regret and into selfless devotion. It is punctuated perfectly by the heavy, grunge rock “Paul Newman vs. the Demons” where the Avetts answer the question “How many times must I / live through the past again?” by screaming “no more.”
Yet they remind us throughout the album of the important task of returning to the past—not abandoning it, but using it to move forward and look to the future. The title track, “The Once and Future Carpenter,” reminisces on past experiences of working and traveling, promising “Forever I will move / like the world that turns beneath me.” It concludes with the conviction that “If I live the life I’m given / I won’t be scared to die.” This emphasis on living with purpose and working with past regrets to grow in the future comes full circle in the final track, “Life,” which opens with the promise that “we’re not on this world for long” and calls the audience to action with the command to “keep it, use it / build it, move it.”
“The Carpenter” draws lyrically on the progress of life and the importance of an active perspective that  remembers the past while going towards the future. These themes accommodate The Avett Brothers’ ever-improving musical precision that becomes a clearer, more disciplined vehicle for their invaluable and passionate energy. Their latest album illustrates the simple dedication that has brought them this far, and promises a continual progression as they move into the future.