SINCERELY Yours

When The Avett Brothers were prepping to release True Sadness, Seth Avett (vocals/guitar) penned an open letter to the band’s fans. In the letter, he wrote the album is “a patchwork quilt, both thematically and stylistically. Wherein a myriad of contrasting fabrics make perfect sense on the same plane, this album draws upon countless resources from its writers and performers… There are moments of undeniable celebration and camaraderie, others of quiet and lonely exhalation.” It’s a grandiose description, to be sure, with Mr. Avett construing the essence of the album in the same manner one might describe a James Joyce novel (or in the same way I chose to use the word “construing” when “describing” would’ve done just fine).

Despite the intricate rundown of True Sadness, he is right in at least this plain way: The album (and, really, all of The Avett Brother’s albums) is a collection of joy and sorrow, celebration and exhalation. Call it a quilt if you want to, but it is simpler said that The Avett Brothers are able to turn the fragility of life into beautiful music in a way that drips with sincerity.

The Avett Brothers started in North Carolina as, well, brothers. Seth and Scott (vocals/banjo) began their foray into music in different bands in and around Concord, North Carolina, before they discovered there was something useful in writing songs and singing them together. After “imposing their muppet-like energy upon unsuspecting coffeeshop and barroom patrons across the state” (their words again), they were joined by bassist Bob Crawford and booked their first tour. They released A Carolina Jubilee in 2003. That album was the first indicator of the band’s brotherly harmonies and country leanings. It was also the beginning of multiple odes to pretty girls. You can track their success by how their odes expand geographically from the likes of Raleigh in ’03 to Chile and San Diego on 2007’s Emotionalism.Emotionalism included cellist Joe Kwon and was perhaps the origin of the aforementioned patchwork quilt of celebration and exhalation on songs like “The Weight of Lies” and “The Ballad of Love and Hate.”

The band began a trend of poignancy and honesty on Emotionalism that caught the eye of super-producer Rick Rubin, who hopped on board for ’09’s I and Love and You. The album’s title track was the next spike in the band’s journey toward the ears and hearts of critics and fans alike. Rubin has stayed on board for 2012’s The Carpenter, the following year’s Magpie and the Dandelion, and the group’s latest release, True Sadness. Through each album, the band has seen their craft, fan base and venue-size grow.

True Sadness continues that maturity. Topics like humanity, divorce, integrity and how the ones we love the most may hurt us are scattered throughout the album, the quilt. The delivery, though, is expanding. There is a waltz (“May It Last”), some country yodeling that makes the subject matter somewhat more whimsical (“Divorce Separation Blues”) and the stomp-romp and fun bass line of the album’s first single, “Ain’t No Man.”

In some aspects, The Avett Brothers are like many of their contemporaries who blend harmonies and banjos. It’s a style that has taken them from the back porches of homesteads to stages across the world. The Avett Brothers have a loyal, ardent fan base, have been photographed wearing Stetsons and cowboy boots, and have worked their asses off touring — they also tend to unite millennials and a population on the cusp of the adult contemporary portion of their lives.

However, when it comes to their ability to convey earnestness, sincerity, and a life so beautiful it can make you cry, the Avetts are in a different league. It isn’t just their hypothetical faith in humanity that has lassoed fans and critics alike; it’s the actual pitfalls and failed ventures of their own personal lives that permeate their songs and albums, creating the bond I assume they strive for when they write.

When reviewing Emotionalism in 2007, that cranky old gatekeeper Pitchfork accused The Avett Brothers of being contrived and lacking humility (they still gave it a 7.5, to be fair). However, having expressed the same sentiments over eight albums, it would be fair to disagree. The Avett Brothers have built their reputation — and career — on their ability to put pen (or quill, based on the heightened language used in the previously mentioned open letter) to paper and let the sanguine sincerity flow.

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