avett brothers – i and love and you 2009

North Carolina sibling duo the Avett Brothers return in 2009, fresh off a few years of building a cult following for its melodic and rootsy alt-bluegrass sound, with the subdued I AND LOVE AND YOU. The opening single and title track basks in piano-pop splendor in an odd mix of Beach Boys, Byrds, and the Band.

The Avett Brothers continue charting the same musical course as EMOTIONALISM and MIGNONETTE on major-label debut I AND LOVE AND YOU, despite the presence of hands-on producer Rick Ruben. The country-folk duo continue to add elements of pop and hillbilly rock to a country/bluegrass foundation on the 2009 LP, a record with a newfound emphasis on piano and nuanced arrangements. Working with a larger budget allows the group to add small flourishes — a cello line here, a keyboard crescendo there — but the resulting music is rarely grand, focusing on textures rather than sheer volume. Scott and Seth Avett share vocals throughout the album, delivering their lyrics in a speak-sing cadence that sounds both tuneful and conversational. Given the opportunities presented here — the ability to flank their melodies with string sections, organ swells, and Harmonium — the two devote more focus to slower songs, eschewing the barn-burning bouncefests of their previous albums for material that better displays such sonic details. The result is an intimate, poignant album, laced with rich production that enhances, not clouds, the songwriting itself.

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