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“True Sadness” Avett Brothers

“True Sadness” Avett Brothers

“…an unhelpful amount of cultural journalism is dedicated to attacking works of art that critics deem substandard. Though this may be a diverting spectator sport, it has little to do with the more useful mission of trying to unite a short-time and suffering audience with works that would be of genuine benefit to them.”

Alain de Botton, The News, A users manual

I got into a late-night whisky induced discussion once, with a few friends, on the subject of musical influence – which artist / band has been the most influential of all time, etc…

I hung my hat on Buddy Holly.

And I still do.

Not Elvis, Not The Beatles. Not the Stones.

Buddy Holly.

It’s my opinion and I’m happy with it.

When it comes to reviewing a gig or a body of work by an artist it may also be subjective, but I have always believed that it’s important NOT to criticise ANYONE, unless you can do better, and even then it becomes a respect and dignity thing.

And so…

It was with much excitement that I waited for the new album by The Avett Brothers, a band I’ve followed long and hard since I first heard them in and around 2009.

Listening to them for the first time was a real game changer for me and since, I’ve flown to Glasgow to see them, driven to Dublin and bought tickets for a London gig, and raved about them to anyone and everyone who’d listen to me.

True Sadness released on Monday 24th June is the latest Rick Rubin produced Avett recording and sees the band being led a little bit further away from their Americana roots.

For me that makes the album title almost prophetic.

It’s a certainly a progression since their earliest work but I’m just not so sure that it’s a logical one and with this recording it feels like the band have a greater craving now for the mainstream than ever before.

Scott and Seth Avett had crafted a very hipster brand of Americana with their feet firmly planted in traditional folk, bluegrass and alt-country, with the occasionally out-reach to rock and roll.

“Grunge Country” is how I might have described their earlier work.

In the band, the brothers work closely with Bob Crawford (bass) and Joe Kwan (Cello) and have done so for a number of years now but their trademark is pure AVETT – a mixture of Scott and Seth’s harmonies, Scott’s banjo playing and the jangly acoustic rhythms from his brother, Seth.

All in, they’ve been at this for 16 years and it may well be that True Sadness is their break from their own traditional roots and into the mainstream, but we should have seen this coming some time ago – one of their songs – “You and I” from 2012s’ The Carpenter – has already been used for a GAP commercial.

True Sadness is very much worth a listen, if you are a die-hard fan of the Avett Brothers.

Then you can make up your own mind.

The front cover bears an uncanny and ironic resemblance to Give Them Enough Rope, by The Clash and all the songs are well crafted, melodic and well produced.

And that might just be the problem in that the production by Rick Rubin takes away those rough edges, so evident in their early work.

If you were simply a fan of great music, then I’d point you in the direction of “Emotionalism, (2007) Mignionette (2004), I and Love and You (2009)”

Throughout their back catalogue, there are gems everywhere.

An EP released in 2006 called The Gleaming hosts the beautiful “If it’s the beaches.”

The Gleaming II features “Bella Donna” and “Murder in the city” and from Four Thieves Gone, you could pick any number of stand-out tracks including “Pretend Love”,Colourshow” and the most incredible “Famous Flower of Manhattan”

If True Sadness is the commercial break they crave, then I wish the Avett Brothers well and whilst the Americana genre has been richer for them it’s probably going to be a whole lot poorer without them.

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