THE AVETT BROTHERS: A CAROLINA JUBILEE (2003)
1) The Traveling Song; 2) Love Like The Movies; 3) Sorry Man; 4) Me And God; 5) Pretty Girl From Raleigh; 6) Do You Love Him; 7) I Killed Sally's Lover; 8) Pretty Girl From Locust; 9) My Last Song To Jenny; 10) Walking For You; 11) The D Bag Rag; 12) Pretty Girl From Annapolis; 13) Smoke In Our Lights; 14) Offering.
At fifty minutes (there is also an eight-minute long bonus track that contains nothing but bits of poorly recorded dialog, and, frankly, I have not sat through it even once), anyway, at fifty minutes the Avett Brothers' proper record label debut (Ramseur Records) is about as overlong as you'd expect from any traditionally arranged bluegrass album, even if the banjoist were Yngwie Malmsteen in disguise and the acoustic guitarist occasionally launched into Slayer riffs, and both were songwriters on a pants-peeing level for Paul McCartney.
None of which should detract the honest listener from the fact that the Avett Brothers did come up with another bunch of fine, friendly, attractive, and not altogether generic songs. There are no «structural» advances whatsoever since Country Was (unless we count the delightful excursion into ragtime territory on the catchy kiddie instrumental 'D Bag Rag'), so that any additional deep thoughts on the album as a whole are hard to come by and mostly present themselves as banalities or idiocies; even those professional reviewers who openly liked the Avett Brothers' first tentative step into mainstream territory usually limited their support to «nice sound, man, worthy lyrics, oh God I'd rather listen to something atrocious instead, I'm paid by the word».
Still, stuff like 'Love Like The Movies' and 'Me And God' are a subtle combination of «nice sound» and «worthy lyrics», including some film projector effects and a solid jab at the Church ("my God and I don't need a middle man"). All three of the album's 'Pretty Girls' are honoured well with their respective melodies, particularly the one from 'Locust' because it's an electric piano ballad, and, for some reason, the Avett's spirituality always shines out the strongest on these things (or perhaps it is simply because the piano, per se, is a more spiritual instrument than the guitar? now there's one interesting thought for future consideration).
The brothers' intentional refusal to vary their instrumentation, or, for that matter, to improve on their instrumentation (the sound is as loose, wobbly, and seemingly «amateurish» as before; record executives showed a surprising lack of control here) continues to grate, especially now that they have gone from 25-minute to 50-minute albums. But who knows, maybe it's their only way to escape mega-stardom: with additional hours of rehearsal, series of overdubs, and overall polish some of these songs could be made into country-pop standards that would uphold the genre's ruined reputation against the likes of Taylor Swift — and what sort of a normal person would want to compete with Taylor Swift? Thumbs up.
Check "A Carolina Jubilee" (MP3) on Amazon