I and Love and You: Invitation to the Avett Nation
Courtney Eckerle | Thursday, October 1, 2009
The crooning North Carolinian quartet The Avett Brothers’ latest album “I and Love and You” explores love and connection of family – both those related and the kind you choose for yourself. This choice reflects the band itself, as sweet singing brothers Seth and Scott Avett make up half of the foursome. The brothers also adopted bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon into their fold.
It’s rare to see a previously unrecognized and hardly heralded band like the Avett’s achieve a bigger spotlight, but with this latest album, die hard fans are going to have to take a page from the book of fans of bands like Kings of Leon and keep a stiff upper lip with a bittersweet sigh and let the back-roads band trek off into the mainstream. Perhaps it’s just the accident of conquering every dance hall and prairie-home heart from coast to coast, or the summation of the inevitable, since the Avett’s caught the eye of Rick Rubin, the co-head of Columbia Records who signed the band and produced their new major-label debut.
The album shies away from the caterwauling and banjo-filled hootenannies that made their live performances famous and have kept consistent in previous albums. This change distills the album, making melodies that feel like home and lyrics like the kitchen table. “I and Love and You” is sure to inspire a whole new horde into the “Avett Nation”, which has become fans’ self-proclaimed pledge of allegiance.
With the band gracefully toeing the line between independent integrity and widespread success and appeal, their personal brand of rustic bluegrass-Americana isn’t at all held captive by the Mason-Dixon Line, as they merge sounds that hail from every hop, skip and a jump part of the country. “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” is a song that will sound new to old fans, showing that no obstacle – not even the politics deal breaker – is insurmountable with such lyrics as, “And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected / If you’re loved by someone you’re never rejected.”
Second on the album, “January Wedding” is a sweet as pie Appalachian love ballad that name drops Audrey Hepburn and keeps a light seriousness to getting hitched. The sincerity of the tone and lyrics make it a (note to guys) heart melting message to a lady love. Title track “I and Love and You” deals with the pain of leaving them by crooning, “That woman she’s got eyes that shine / Like a pair of stolen polished dimes.”
Serious as a shotgun tune “The Perfect Space” starts off a somber ballad then kicks in as unexpectedly and as epically as The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” with a bit of metal and a lot of sound to groove with. The lyrics, “Okay part two now clear the house / The party’s over take the shouting and the people / Get out,” illustrate the kind of frustrated melody relatable to anyone who has ever hosted a party gone badly wrong. Infectious frolicking tune “Kick Drum Heart” is one of the few times the Avett’s really rock out on the album, if only for the reason they were afraid of giving too much of a good thing – a literal kick drum raps punctuate the chorus.
While the Avett Brothers have had a successful career and following for nearly a decade, the album’s final tune “Incomplete and Insecure” repeats the line, “I haven’t finished a thing since I started my life / I don’t feel much like starting now,” perfect for an album that is a continuation of the realization of this troupe’s potential. It thankfully keeps from warbling too much about love, which would have made the album maudlin, or too many upbeat pop rock tunes, which would have been just as great a betrayal to fans as the Avett Brothers suddenly transforming into the Jonas Brothers. One thing old and new fans alike can be sure of is that this ragtag family is just getting revved up.