On the opening track of The Carpenter, folk-rockers The Avett Brothers sing of searching for a woman called Purpose. And while the bulk of the band’s sixth studio album tells the tale of unexplained melancholy (“Winter in My Heart”), forgotten relationships (“Pretty Girl From Michigan,” “Geraldine”), and drinking (“Down With the Shine”), when they reach the track “A Father’s First Spring,” it seems they’ve found her: “I do not live ’less I live in your life.”
This humble confession of dependency was likely inspired by bassist Bob Crawford, whose daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer last summer. The event undoubtedly coloured the band’s latest release and gives its themes—ones already explored on their 2009 breakout album, I and Love and You—deeper resonance. Equipped with haunting harmonies, brothers Scott and Seth intimately explore death on the album’s first single, “Live and Die,” and on the chilling “Through My Prayers.” For all the talk of mortality, however, The Carpenter ultimately concludes with the beautiful and declarative “Life.”
Although this album finds the band a little louder than they’ve been in the past, at times paying tribute to the brothers’ ’90s rock roots, it doesn’t stray too far sonically from its predecessor. It’s a clean, calculated effort, courtesy of legendary producer Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jay-Z), littered with fingerpicked guitar, banjo and swelling string arrangements. And while the more boisterous tunes are a welcome addition, it’s the solemn stories of life and loss that once again shine, however bleak they may be.
Playlist picks: “The Once and Future Carpenter,” “Through My Prayers,” “A Father’s First Spring,” “Life”
The Avett Brothers play Molson Amphitheatre (909 Lakeshore Blvd. W.) on Sept. 12.