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The Avett Brothers

I and Love and You – 2009 (SonyBMG)

Reviewed by Rick Cornell

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CDs by The Avett Brothers

Over nine years and a dozen releases, the Avett Brothers (brothers Scott and Seth Avett and bassist Bob Crawford) have transformed casual listeners into zealots and skeptics into believers. And the trio has done it with a sound that's continued to travel - using the word "evolve" or "mature" would be succumbing to a value judgment - from recording to recording. That sound began raw and lean and rooted in, well, roots music. At the point of this major-label debut, it's become more fully cooked and filled out.

A lengthy list of instrumental credits for Scott and Seth, including Hammond B3 and electric guitar, plays a major role in that, as does a guest list ranging from such vets as Benmont Tench and percussionist Lenny Castro to compadres like Paleface and Simone Felice. The setting is clearly, and unapologetically, more pop/rock than roots/stomp. The dominant backing for the brothers' gliding, and only occasionally galloping, vocals tends to be an understated guitar or piano that sounds warmer than you could possibly expect from dead wood or ivory. And that smart support serves to underscore the Avett Brothers' exceptional lyrical depth and intimacy, assets that sometimes get lost in the hoopla and broken banjo strings.

So this new one produced by Rick Rubin offers what you love about the Avett Brothers, only more. Or, depending when you climbed aboard, what you love, only less. But how about those not yet on the train? Songs like the gorgeous title track (with moments that recall nothing less than a piano-based take on Townes Van Zandt's Rex's Blues), the multi-mood The Perfect Space, and the frenetic, ultra-catchy Kick Drum Heart offer plenty to entice newcomers.