Peace, Love and Banjos
4 Out Of 5 Stars
Barely a year after releasing the acclaimed "The Carpenter," The Avett Brothers make a quick turnaround and issue "Magpie and The Dandelion." Along with producer Rick Rubin, The Avetts have mastered a style of folk-rock that many other bands of this ilk are just trying to grasp. Other than Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers have no one else that even come close to matching their own kind of American Roots rock, which makes it all the more interesting that Mumford and Sons are Irish, while the brothers hail from North Carolina.
That's not the only difference. Where the Mumfords typically strive for the bombastic crescendo, the Avetts deal in a more gentle style. Piano melodies intermingle with the banjos, and they have long ago learned that a silence can speak more than an amp turned up to 11. They're also not as preachy, even if the music speaks to universal love and faith. They sing of having an "Open Ended Life" and delicately contemplate "Souls With Wheels" (a live version of the song originally from the EP "The Second Gleam"). Sometimes doubt creeps in, like the long distance affair "Apart From Me," where Scott and Seth Avett question if they can keep love alive while out on the road. Same with "Skin and Bones," but this time with more spunk.
If I have any grumps about "Magpie And The Dandelion," it's that there doesn't seem to be much of a growth in the band. The songs here sound like they were very good, but not so good as to end up on "The Carpenter." Why else tease everyone with an older live song in the middle than to be a song or two short of a totally new album? But then, you'll hear the piano copping from The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" on the midtempo ballad "Good To You," and you can forgive them the lateral move. Also, as previously stated, no other band can keep up with the new folk movement the way The Avett Brothers do. If you prefer, think of "Magpie" and "The Carpenter" as a double album. Play them in tandem. Together, they're a delight, and even with my few misgivings, "Magpie and The Dandelion" is an excellent album.