I and Love and You

From the beginning the Avett Brothers’ music attracted the attention of both men and women. It was their raw, frenzied mix of grunge and bluegrass that seemed to draw the guys while the gals lined up for the tender sweetness that seeped through the banjo riffs and pounding drums. The Avetts had a sensitive side that men could abide and women couldn’t resist. Their 2007 album Emotionalism now feels like a precursor to the powerful emotions that course through I and Love and You.

I and Love and You is a treatise on love and how we communicate the most vulnerable and powerful moments of our lives. The band, brothers Seth and Scott, and bassist Bob Crawford – offer liner notes detailing their thoughts on the subject – a kind of primer on the subject before launching into the music. Opening with the title track, they examine the delicate bounds of familial love. “January Wedding,” is a sentimental ballad that finds a man testifing to his future wife’s best qualities. A parallel theme of the disc crops up in “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise.” Seth and Scott Avett hover just at and just beyond the 30 year marker, inspiring introspection on the subject of maturation and responsibility. “The Perfect Space” begins quietly then snaps into a Wilco-like rocker midway. Never straying too far from their roots the band breaks into a hoe-down for the final 30 seconds of “Laundry Room.”

Much has been made of the Avett Brothers major label debut and the fact that they are working with the much ballyhooed producer Rick Rubin. There is a refined quality to I and Love and You that wasn’t present on their early releases. The raggedy edges have been tailored and there is more of a pop singer/songwriter quality to the songs. The musical amalgamation features bluegrass, folk, rock, and a smattering of punk sensibility. As for Rubin, his producer’s vision offers a clarity that was missing from the band’s earlier recordings. It was the band’s songwriting that first drew Rubin to sign The Avetts to his American label and it has grown as the band’s strength. The melodies are built on acoustic guitar, piano, banjo, stand-up bass, and fiddle with mostly muted percussion. Integral to the sound is the harmonies of Seth and Scott Avett. Trading off lead vocals their voices intermingle on every song, nearly becoming interchangeable on several tracks.

The Avett Brothers previously recorded all their releases in their native North Carolina. Rubin’s decision to move the band to Malibu sparked a create fire in the band. “It’s how I’ve always wanted our band to sound, remarked Seth. I think the men and women who have followed the band from their origin will approve.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)