If songs give us glimpses into the songwriter's soul, then love and death weigh heavy on the minds of Scott and Seth Avett, the primary pens behind the music of The Avett Brothers. The evidence is written all over the 12 songs on the North Carolina-based trio's latest album "The Carpenter." Death plays a prominent role in The Once And Future Carpenter, the lead-off track, which offers an unconcerned look at the inevitable end of life with lines like:
"And when the black cloak drags upon the ground/I'll be ready to surrender/And remember we're all in this together/If I live the life I'm given I won't be scared to die."
Love pops up immediately in the next song, the banjo-driven first single Live And Die. While the first track may ultimately be a search for purpose in life, this one is about the search for love.
"And I wanna love you a more/I wanna find you and more/Where do you reside?/When you hide, how can I find you?/'Cause I wanna send you and more/I wanna tempt you and more/Can you tell that I am alive?/Let me prove it."
These themes pop up throughout the remainder of the album on songs like Pretty Girl From Michigan, a look at the different regrets of lost love, Winter In My Heart, a tender and introspective rumination on living without love, and the album-closing Life, a gorgeous tune featuring otherworldly backing vocals that is predicated on the notion that we're not of this world for long.
Both the unique vocals in this song and the overall feel are direct result of Rick Rubin's contributions, his second with The Avetts. Rubin's influence is noticeable through a continuation of the clean production work and expanded instrumentation he first brought to the band's 2009 release "I And Love And You."
As "The Carpenter" proves, The Avett Brothers' sound has moved further away from its stomping and punk inspired neo-bluegrass roots to a more conventional folk rock style under Rubin's watchful eye. Although some long-time fans are not on-board with this evolution, it's a move that puts the spotlight squarely on the songwriting. This album also proves that Rubin knows what he's doing.