As stated in our live review, the Avetts are a different beast, of late, on record, discounting of course the live albums they have released during their career. This second album on American is again produced by Rick Rubin, who has broadened their sound beyond the stripped down acoustic music of the original trio of Seth and Scott Avett and Robert Crawford. For The Carpenter they are joined by additional players, including touring members Joe Kwon and Jacob Edwards; another thirteen musicians are credited , including Benmont Tench, Lenny Castro and Chad Smith.
The Avett’s songs are built around the voices of Seth and Scott and they have taken that core trio sound and added a range of instruments which give the music a wider appeal. However it is the songs of the trio which are the stars here as they have been on previous albums and on this record they feature less banjo though it is still a dominant element live. Equally, there is less piano than previously. The folk vision and melodies now sit beside full-blown rock sounds. I Never Knew You has a sunnier disposition than the title and lyrics might suggest. Many of these songs look inward to try and understand the reasons that relationships can fail as much as they can survive hardship. Winter In My Heart is a theme that has been explored in the past and will be in the future. The loss of faith and love is timeless.
I suspect that those who have grown up listening to the Avett Brothers will have mostly grown with the music. Some however, may yearn for the simpler and more direct take on bluegrass that the band previously represented. While this album may not top I and Love and You, there is much here to enjoy and it certainly reveals more on repeated play. It is the sound of a band exploring possibilities with a degree of subtlety and success that can only see their audience grow. In the wake of the outright success of the far more mainstream Mumford & Sons, that's an interesting prospect.