4 Out Of 5 Stars
I was lucky enough to catch the Avett Brothers live at the 50th Newport Folk Festival, where they were previewing songs from the forthcoming "I and Love and You." I was immediately taken by their range and scope, as well as their impact as a band. I thought I&L&U was one of the best albums of the year, and it's taken them since 2009 to create this follow-up. "The Carpenter" takes those intense, acute moments of the last album and gives them a glossier sound without losing any of the emotional wallop. In fact, if the longing and sadness of "A Father's First Spring" doesn't tug your heartstrings, you're reading the wrong review.
The Avett Brothers are into making epic music. There's not as much bombast here as there is on, say, Mumford and Sons' "Babel," and "The Carpenter" might be better for it. "Live and Die" plucks Scott Avett's banjo while swinging on a sing-along chorus. They also make great use of their harmony singing, with an almost doo-wop go at "Pretty Girl From Michigan" (the latest in a series of "Pretty Girl..." songs) or the oddly rocking "Paul Newman Vs The Demons." (The most unsubtle song here, and proof that these men have no issues with their eccentricities.)
The meat of the album remains the brothers' folk-band style, the stuff that got them and Mumford and Sons behind Bob Dylan. Rick Rubin adds the polish but doesn't make things run outside the album's limits. You can get "Down With The Shine," take a roll on the 90 second "Geraldine" or wax philosophical on the title song, but you'll never miss out on some tasty licks and lyrics. I don't feel "The Carpenter" quite measures up to the previous album, however, you'll not walk away dissatisfied. If you're one of the trendy folkies that snapped up "Babel" the first week out, "The Carpenter" should be in your playlist, too.