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The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter

9
Released:September 11, 2012
Tracklisting:

1. The Once And Future Carpenter
2. Live And Die
3. Winter In My Heart
4. Pretty Girl From Michigan
5. I Never Knew You
6. February Seven
7. Through My Prayers
8. Down With The Shine
9. A Fathers First Spring
10. Geraldine
11. Paul Newman Vs. The Demons
12. Life

An album about death and mortality has never been more poignant and almost cheery than The Carpenter by The Avett Brothers. Following in the same folk/Americana tradition that made Mumford and Sons unlikely genre stars, the Avett Brothers' breezy bluegrass is difficult to find fault. Perfectly constructed with pristine production values by way of Rick Rubin, The Carpenter sounds like a page ripped from Gary Louris/Mark Olson/Jayhawks' songbook, complete with bittersweet lyrics and lilting harmonies that drift effortlessly through largely acoustic instrumentals.

Kicking off the album with the "The Once and Future Carpenter", the track sets the tone with a tale self-reflection of a life well-lived. Scott Avett sings, "if I live the life I've given/ I won't be scared to die" with a firm conviction of contentment. It's equal parts charm and self-deflation, a song that makes you feel happy to feel alive but at the same time, less accomplished because there's so much more life to live. The banjo-led "Live and Die" could have been corny in different hands, but Avett Brothers grasp its sunniness and creates a Partridge Family sway that works like a charm. From the swoony doo-wop sway of "Pretty Girl From Michigan" to the swamp stomp of "February Seven" to the dark propulsive rock of "Paul Newman vs. the Demons", The Carpenter comes across like Death Cab For Cutie had they been from North Carolina and not Washington State, a contemplative mix of earthy folk and indie rock that never feels forced. The album closer "Life" is a mournful ballad whose stark intimacy pulls you apart at the seams with the cello drowning you in rapturous emotion so deep and fluid that you can't do anything but crawl into fetal position.

Drawn from the soul-searching experience that the band went through together when bassist Bob Crawford's daughter, Hallie, was diagnosed with brain cancer last year, The Carpenter is a heavy record kept buoyant by the breeziness of the music. It's a tender balance that they get just right, never making light of life's big epiphanies but never diving into inescapable melodrama and that's what makes this album so successful and so devastatingly gorgeous.

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