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The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers (photo courtesy of Crackerfarm, PR)

The Avett Brothers (photo courtesy of Crackerfarm, PR)

by

The Avett Brothers
Closer Than Together
American/Republic Records

The Avett Brothers have something serious to say on their new album, Closer Than Together. Frustrated by current events, their tenth studio album finds the band exploring sociopolitical territories they've rarely, if ever, broached on their previous nine albums. While not quite a potent array of politically-charged protest songs, Closer Than Together takes a measured approach to a country in disarray.

Vocalists, guitarists, keyboardists and brothers Scott and Seth Avett, stand-up bassist Bob Crawford and multi-instrumentalist Joe Kwon have collaborated for a fifth time with producer and label boss Rick Rubin on Closer Than Together. It's been three years since the Avett Brothers released True Sadness and on Closer Than Together, all of the familiar elements are present. The band naturally braids together elements of folk, country, bluegrass and rock, merging a reverence for traditional Americana with the reckless abandon of punk. They intuitively switch between acoustic to electric instruments, sometimes within the same song, to create a sound that bridges old style Americana and modern day alternative rock. They also have the ability to compose melodies that become earworms. But this time, they're casting a critical eye at the country they care about.

In Seth's thoughtful “We Americans,” there's an unwavering love and allegiance to the U.S.A. matched with a hard look at the nation’s shortcomings and checkered past: “I am a son of Uncle Sam/And I struggle to understand the good and evil/But I’m doing the best I can/In a place built on stolen land with stolen people.”

On  “New Woman’s World,” the patriarchy gets a hard kick from the Avetts, as they sift through a society that has been destroyed by men. “It used to be a man’s world but we didn’t treat it right," Seth sings. "It used to be a man’s world but all we did was fight." At the song’s end, comes the hopeful phrase: “Let me know if I can help out in this new women’s world.”

America's out-of-control gun culture is addressed in “Bang Bang," with an uneasy confession that living in the country also means that "all of my neighbors have closets full of machine guns." 

Elsewhere on the 13-track Closer Than Together, the Avett Brothers sing about love, family, friends and everyday life. “Bleeding White” is a jagged, riff-heavy rocker and “Tell The Truth” is quintessential Avett Brothers and a folk-pop treasure, lush with rich harmonies.  There's a synth groove to the single “High Steppin'" and the epic closer “It’s Raining Today" is an elegant ballad, warmed with acoustic guitar, crystalline piano, and strings.

The Avett Brothers have staked out their rural niche in the Americana world. For nearly twenty years, they've released songs that are inviting, amiable, and lively. But on Closer Than Together, they reveal a rarely seen mindful side that needs to be heard more often. If ever there's a time for breaking out of comfort zones and being bold, it's now.

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