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Magpie and the Dandelion

The Avett Brothers

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Album Review

Recorded at the same sessions that produced 2012's The Carpenter, 2013's Magpie and the Dandelion doesn't play like leftovers, which is to the credit of both the Avett Brothers and their producer Rick Rubin. Magpie and the Dandelion consciously evokes past Americana, stretching back beyond the Band but anchored there, often incorporating a harder-rocking edge reminiscent of former Rubin patrons Black Crowes. The key to appreciating the Avett Brothers is to realize they see themselves as heirs to this tradition, happy to accentuate their rustic roots with banjos and weary harmonies because they suggest authenticity. Where their real strength lies is not in instrumental virtuosity or song (although many of the tunes here are sturdy enough) but rather in feel: they capture an indistinct past where guitars are an enduring virtue. Perhaps the Avetts are best when they run a little bit loose and ragged, letting the tempos push a little bit hard, allowing their harmonies to clash and happy to have their loose ends remain untied. Often, this means that the ballads are just a shade too tidy — they're mannered in a way almost none of the rest of the record is — but still Magpie and the Dandelion underscores how the appeal of the Avett Brothers remains in their indebtedness to the past without being bogged down by its legacy.

Customer Reviews

Time for a change

Per NPR, this forthcoming set was recorded more or less at the same time as The Carpenter, an album that I felt was bloated, overproduced and, at times, lyrcially insipid ("they say flowers bloom in spring/red and gold, blue and pink"). So, I'm fearing that Rick Rubin will be at the helm yet again and this preview track would seem to confirm that. Like EBatts, I much prefer the Avetts raw and unadorned and so would be pleased to see them jettison Rubin in favor of someone like Jeff Tweedy, whose unfussy and altogether brilliant stewardship of the recent Low and Mavis Staples releases attests to how much a producer can contribute by just staying out of the way.

Eh, it might be alright...

With only a small portion of one song to judge from it's impossible to predict what the rest of this album holds, but based on what is available I would have to say it sounds a bit overdone and polished. My favorite thing about the Avett Brothers is their raw and stripped down sound combined with good songwriting, musicianship, and AMAZING vocal harmonies. I'm all for progress, but when does it stop being progress and become something else? Hopefully the rest of the album has more to offer...

Other Songs

But have you looked up other songs on the album? Listen to "Morning Song" or "Apart from Me" and tell me that they've lost their edge or roots. Tell me those songs are any different from "Pretty Girl at the Airport" or "Murder in the City." It actually seems like this album contains more "traditional" songs that they've been playing for a while and releasing now. I think "The Carpenter" had just enough "new" to hook some "new" fans, and this one is going to bring people to their "older" sound.

Biography

Formed: 2000 in Concord, NC

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The Avett Brothers' music has roots in traditional folk and bluegrass, but also captures the high spirits and no-boundaries attitude of rock & roll — which is appropriate, since rock is where Scott Avett and Seth Avett first cut their teeth as musicians. Although siblings Scott (vocals, banjo) and Seth (vocals, guitar) began making music together as children, their group's genesis began when they were members of Nemo, a rock band that gigged regularly in Greenville, North Carolina. Looking...
Full Bio
Magpie and the Dandelion, The Avett Brothers
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