Let's begin with a list of artists that the Avett Brothers have been compared to: Buddy Holly, Bill Monroe, The Beatles, The Band, Nirvana, The Violent Femmes, Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers, The Kingson Trio, Will Oldham. That should give you an idea of what to expect from this North Carolina trio - or maybe not. How about the types of music they've been associated with: bluegrass, grunge, punk, country, folk, ragtime, southern rock, old-timey. Still not sure what to expect?
The truth is you can hear degrees of all of these artists and musical styles in the songs of the Avett Brothers but they parrot no one and follow their own burgeoning vision. Perhaps the Washington Post got as close to defining the band as anyone when they referred to their music as "post Civil War modern rock."
Emotionalism marks a turning point for the trio of Seth and Scott Avett and Bob Crawford. The band continues to offer up that pure, unadulterated, down-home, back-porch approach to making music but with a bit more polish and structure to the arrangements then on previous release. Don't be surprised to hear a piano, B3 organ or mandolin jump in between Seth's acoustic guitar and Bob's stand-up bass. Even though Scott's banjo is the centerpiece for most of the songs you'll still hear a bit more percussion popping up in the mix and maybe even some string arrangements.
But for you purest who love what the band has done up to this point, fear not. What propels the music of the Avetts is the raw honesty with which they make music. Are they perfectly in tune? Are their harmonies absolutely in sync? No, but that's would be missing the point of why these guys make music. What has always been at the heart of real country music as well as punk is the idea that anyone can make music by picking up an instrument and playing and singing with passion and conviction. Virtuosity is not the point. Joy and communication is the real pursuit and that these boys do better than just about anyone.
Seth and Scott write songs that are witty, poignant and right on the money when it comes to relationships. "The Ballad of Love and Hate" is a bittersweet metaphor for forgiveness and acceptance in a love affair while "Shame" succinctly delves into guilt. There's plenty of love songs here as well and a few foot-stompers to keep things honest. If you like what you hear on this CD, do yourself a favor. Take it to the next level and go see the band live. They're the real "real" deal.