To start with an emphatic statement the Avett Brothers are a class act awaiting a huge UK audience. Their last full album "Emotionalism" has some of the best Americana songs of the past decade (Weight of Lies and Pretty Girl from Chile) while the "Gleam EPs" (reviewed elsewhere) are true wonders. They showcase the bands quieter side with songs such as "Weight of Lies" "Tear down this house" "Murder in the city" and "St Josephs" that will require the Office of Fair Trading to investigate your I Pod because of the dangers of an emerging monopoly. Throughout the brothers sing like their lives depend on it and their concerts have a massive reputation for the sheer high energy impact. Check them out on the web you will be enthralled at every raucous, earnest, sweaty second of it and see a band that can look like veterans of the Battle of Shiloh and draw upon the heritage of Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe and more latterly the Everly's and the Band.
With this pedigree their new album "I and Love and you" has hit the Billboard top twenty in the States and should see the a long overdue UK breakthrough for the Brothers from Concord, North Carolina who have displayed over the past decade consistently high quality albums and brilliant song writing. For good measure the legendary Rick Rubin of Johnny Cash fame has been brought into produce it and that may be where a slight issue is to be located. The Avetts have always had a very enduring rough edge, indeed it is there rawness and spontaneity which have been a most special characteristic (listen to the wonderful "November Blue" for their rough charm and gritty edginess). Rubin has smoothed this and in turn has put to the fore the pop sensibility which has been displayed on previous albums. "Will you return" on Emotionalism is one of the best early songs that Lennon and McCartney never wrote. The upshot is that Rubin's approach does work overall but can on occasions overplay "the pop" side of the Avett's and downplay the bluegrass punk. Thus "It Goes On and on" describes itself, sounding rather like a Elvis Costello song with a repetitive lyric, "Slight figure of the Speech" sounds a bit too much the Kooks while the best of the bunch is "Kick drum heart" could have been beefed up production wise.
The great news is that when Rubin gets it right he takes the band to new heights. There are songs on here that rank and surpass their best. The title track is superb; a heartfelt and poignant love song with the refrain of "A Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in, you don't now the shape I'm in" lingering in your head long after the song has finished. "January Wedding" is the Avetts of old and all the better for it. It's truly joyous and wholly sentimental but try not to love it (and at last a banjo can be heard). I would venture to suggest that "Laundry Room" will be one of their signature songs, it's brilliant. Please download it since you will love this country ballad and check out the brothers high energy performance on You Tube, particularly in the songs last minute. Head Full of Doubt/ Road Full of Promise" begins with a stringed arrangement by the end will have you singing like an idiot at the top of your voice. Perfect Space is slow piano ballad which has a nice bridge at about 2.30 showing the brothers' willingness to experiment. I would love to see them perform this live, infact the songs I don't like may be transformed in a live environment and make more sense.
Overall then its a great album and overwhelmingly the good massively outweighs some of the caveats set out in this review. On "Emotionalism" the Avett Brothers pointed towards greatness and on this album they fully consolidate that. Q magazine, which has begun to radically lose the plot of late, has cast them as the "bluegrass Kings of Leon", which is both lazy and inaccurate. Most bands can only dream about writing songs as good as the title track and "Laundry Room" and if "I and Love and You" leads you to dig deeper into the Avett's catalogue both old and new you will find the total package and a band that will capture your heart.