The Avett Brothers get melancholic on new album

The Avett Brothers get melancholic on new album

Street Sounds: The Avett Brothers pare it down

American folk-rock ensemble The Avett Brothers’ latest album, True Sadness, adds levity to their dark folk leanings.

American folk-rock ensemble The Avett Brothers’ latest album adds levity to their dark folk leanings.

The brothers leave the parlour door wide open on their ninth album, True Sadness.

The North Carolina combo recruited Rick Rubin to produce with his usual hands-off effectiveness and the results are varied, if not spirited.

The opening track, Ain’t No Man, places the band’s vocal character in a pared-down arrangement that gives the song the uplift of a riverbank revival meeting.

The Avetts and Rubin stick to a down-home roots sound that suggests that the group has their ears attuned to Appalachian melodies (Smithsonian, Mama, I Don’t Believe). As a whole, the recording has an acoustic soul and when it strays from that territory, the dynamic turns to country rock and sounds less melodic and mysterious.

The Avett Brothers are based on guitars, banjos, stand-up bass and the range within their format is wide. When they pare back the dynamics for ballads, the effect is haunting (I Wish I Was, Fisher Road to Hollywood).

True Sadness is a flow between the thoughtful tones of quiet material and the acoustic strum power of Victims of Life.

The band and Rubin explore the dialogue of those sounds and the only misstep is a stray excursion into James Taylor’s territory on Divorce Separation Blues. Otherwise, True Sadness is focussed and full of backwoods harmony and soul.

Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest releases for The Morning Star every Friday.