BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
It’s apparent that the Avett Brothers’ musical momentum remains undiminished. That’s obviously affirmed by the big label mechanism gifted them by their record company, American Records, and the recruitment of mercurial maestro Rick Rubin to sit behind the boards. With Closer Than Ever, the shift in their MO at first seems to be indicated courtesy of the heightened production values that define opening track “Bleeding White” in particular.
Fortunately though, the Avetts haven’t forsaken the fragile charm and tenuous underpinnings that made their homegrown sound such an indelible part of their seminal sounds. On “We Americans” for example, they revert to the softer, more subdued delivery once so essential to their modest intents. The song is a sly deflation of the American mantra, but the unassuming approach belies any bitterness or recrimination.
While the band may seem more aware of emphatic expression overall, many of the melodies maintain the anthemic perspective that ‘s always been so inherent and inspired. “Long Story Short” offers the album’s best example; with little more than acoustic guitar, cello and high, harmony, they share the story of everyday individuals bound by dysfunction and desire. Like the best of the Avetts’ material, it’s touching and poignant all by the same measure. The same could be said of the simple sing-alongs that follow, the light and lilting “C Sections and Railway Trestles” and the decidedly delicate “Bang Bang with its strings and sweetening,” as well as the tender and touching “Who Will I Hold.”
Aside from the obvious flourishes, the brothers’ facility for supple storytelling in pointed, poignant fashion remains the surest sign of the band’s continuing maturity. As a result, Closer Than Ever finds the Avett Brothers not only close, but fully arrived.
TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “We Americans,” “C Sections and Railway Trestles,” “Who Will I Hold”