Each week in God and Country Music, Nick Rynerson gives country music a chance and examines the world of Americana, folk, alt-country, and popular country music.
Today is a very special day indeed, a day that only comes along once every three years or so. Today marks the release of a new album by the new kings of Americana music: The Avett Brothers. Much has been written about The Avett Brothers in this weekly column, because there is a lot to say about them. They are some of the best songwriters in the last few decades, maybe of all time, who enjoy the label of “country music”. And they don’t sing much about Red Solo Cups, which is always a plus.
The new album — titled The Carpenter – is a mix of old, trusty Avett Brothers sounds and new, polished, Rick Rubin-style sounds. Songs like “Winter In My Heart” amble along with a contemplative melancholy while “I Never Knew You” is so doggone sing-song that the chorus will lodge itself in your head for hours. What’s more, the Brothers have finally recorded their live performance staple “Down With The Shine”, and it is glorious! But the emotional meat and potatoes are in the album’s first two tracks.
“The Once and Future Carpenter” literally makes me weep every time I listen to it. It is a song of traveling, dreaming, regret, and truth. All of these themes are tied together in a chorus that is some of the most penetrating verse I’ve heard in quite some time:
And when I lose my direction I look up to the sky
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
Whatever this means to Scott & Seth Avett is beyond me, but anyone with some theological background or the Holy Spirit can smell the Imago Dei. Full of redemptive themes and struggles for meaning and truth, The Avett Brothers’ album promises to be as spiritually active as Lecrae’s new joint. (Though probably less overt and less Reformed, but oh well.) I keep writing about these guys because I just can’t figure them out. They are a good, moral group of guys but they seem to be on a journey searching for something more. Which is a refreshing change of pace in the world of country music, where a lot of folks just sing about how they’ve got everything all figured out. (Insert example of every song about rural living here.) The Avett Brothers may not have it figured out, but here’s to hoping that they do. And maybe put out a few more albums along the way.
The Carpenter was released today and is available on iTunes, and everywhere where good, actual compact discs are sold.