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Interview – Paleface

Photo by Sooz White

Photo by Sooz White

In a world where musical authenticity is constantly being called to question, anti-folk icon, Paleface, is as real as they get. After nearly three decades of writing and performing music, Paleface remains true to his craft and continues to create art that is raw, fresh, and inspired.

Paleface’s music career is much like a collection of short stories, woven together with unpredictable highs and lows—each chapter marked with different shades of joy, sorrow, chaos and control. Throughout it all Paleface has managed to come out on the other side with tales to tell.

Paleface got his start playing music at NYC clubs in the late 80s, rubbing shoulders with creative minds like Daniel Johnston and Beck. While being managed by the legendary Danny Fields, Paleface signed a major-label record deal, began putting out albums, and touring with bands like Crash Test Dummies and The Breeders. Everything appeared to be falling into place, but by the late 90s Paleface’s partying lifestyle caught up with him, nearly taking his life and forcing him to reevaluate his direction.

By 2000, a sober Paleface found himself among a new crop of imaginative musicians in NYC, many calling themselves “anti-folk.” Artists like Kimya Dawson, Regina Spektor, and Langhorne Slim shared the stage with Paleface, and he soon became an integral part of the anti-folk scene.

“Anti-folk didn’t stand for anything,” Paleface said. “It was whatever you can do to make art you should share it, get on stage, do it. If people like it, great, if they don’t, that’s OK, too. Nobody was gonna crucify you ‘cause you were bad or not what they wanted. In that anti-folk scene nobody would care ‘cause anything goes.”

It was during this period in his career when Paleface struck up a friendship with Scott and Seth Avett (The Avett Brothers). This instant artistic connection ultimately drew him, and girlfriend/drummer Monica “Mo” Samalot, away from New York in 2008 to start a new life in Concord.

After moving to North Carolina, Paleface and Samalot hit the road, touring as a high-energy folk-rock duo throughout the United States and Europe. Paleface continued to record and release albums like the self-released “A Different Story” as well as “The Show Is On The Road” and “One Big Party” on Ramseur Records. Studio and on-stage collaborations with The Avett Brothers exposed a whole new audience to Paleface’s music and it appeared that his momentum had shifted up again.

However, a health scare and setback in Europe while promoting “One Big Party” forced the pair to take time off to regroup, yet again. Unable to tour, Paleface spent time focusing on getting healthy and painting — a talent he had discovered while living in NYC.

“Painting is very meditative and relaxing in a way that music is not,” Paleface said. “It’s like a puzzle that you figure out as you go which at any moment can change or be wrecked by your next move. Music, if you change something you can immediately go back to how you had it if you don’t like the change.”

Paleface creates bright, bold, music-inspired folk-art. His canvas and drum head paintings often carry uplifting themes, much like his music, and he sells them as special one-of-a-kind merchandise at shows.

“I think of my paintings as rock-n-roll folk art, and my music, too,” Paleface said. “I like the fact that people can get this special thing that’s much better than a CD or T-shirt or even a print … 250 sold paintings later I’m still making them and getting more and more interested in it all the time.”

In reality the paintings help to supplement the often stretched-thin income of a touring independent artist. Life on the road is difficult, but Paleface has managed to stay positive after all of these years.

“[Touring] is harder work than people know,” Paleface said. “It sounds romantic and I wouldn’t trade it, but you can get tired with the miles. Great shows can always help build you up and bad shows remind you nothing is certain, but I love seeing all the friends we’ve made out there on the road and checking on the progress they’ve made in their own lives.”

Paleface has been touring through Greenville for several years, a stop that he may have missed had it not been for his connection with the Avetts.

“The first time we ever came was back in the day playing with the band Oh What a Nightmare, which at the time was The Avett Brothers’ other project, kind of a hard rock trio with Seth on drums and Scott on electric,” Paleface said. “I like Greenville a lot. The Spazzatorium was a great scene and Jeff [Blinder] who used to book there had really good taste so it was always fun to go there and play. After it closed we just kept coming back because we liked playing here.”

While the Avetts may have brought Paleface to Greenville, Samalot keeps the duo coming back. She is the driving force when it comes to the business side of things — mapping out tour routes, booking venues, handling all social media—in addition to rocking the drums and singing harmonies. Paleface and Samalot are partners in every sense of the word. On and off stage their mutual respect and love is unmistakable and they are constantly pushing each other to improve.

“(Samalot) really loves harmony so we’ve been doing a bit of that of late,” Paleface said. “She also remembers songs that I forget and if she likes it enough pushes me to bring it back and make it something. I must confess that I’ve only recorded a fraction of the songs I’ve written so it is good to have someone who remembers them.”

When it comes to songwriting, Paleface’s talent is off the charts. He is a true storyteller, creating a unique auditory experience that reaches all ages. Paleface’s ability to write songs with traditional acoustic instrumentation that ends up feeling charged and electric is unmatched and magical.

“[It’s an] obsession,” Paleface said. “I don’t need to bottle it. It just is an inextinguishable flame that burns inside.”

As he begins another new chapter in his career, Paleface is approaching his newest material from a more informed and introspective place. Though it has been challenging, he is confident that his approach will yield some of his best music to date.

“For a while, because I’ve had a rough time in the music (business), I just wanted to stand on stage and sing happy songs and I didn’t really care if it was cool or not,” Paleface said. “Lately I’ve felt a little restless with that. I’m taking my time with it so I don’t know when it will be finished, hopefully soon.”

Until then, fans can catch Paleface touring across the country. This month, Paleface will once again make a stop in Greenville to close out Spazz Fest VI at Christy’s Europub on March 22 from 7-11 p.m. Fans can expect Paleface to deliver another fun and lively performance, full of some of his best old tunes, a few new ones and plenty of audience interaction.

“I want [the audience] to feel the energy and give it back so we can both bug out to the sound vibrations,” Paleface said.

This piece originally ran in Mixer Magazine.

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Album Review – Rancid’s “…Honor Is All We Know”

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Nothing exudes the holiday spirit quite like a new Rancid album — this year’s perfect stocking stuffer.

“…Honor Is All We Know” marks the punk rock band’s eighth studio album and its first release since 2009. Punk veteran Tim Armstrong continues to lead Rancid head-on into the fire pit with his unmistakable, gritty vocals and anarchistic, yet upbeat, agenda. Along with longtime bandmate Matt Freeman (bass, vocals), Lars Frederiksen (guitar, vocals) and Branden Steineckert (drums), Armstrong finds a sweet spot between staying true to his punk roots while pushing the tight-fisted genre into the future.

The album opens with a familiar frenzied pace on “Back Where I Belong,” marking the band’s valiant return after five years between recordings. This is a no-frills announcement and a reason for listeners to perk up and pay attention. “Raise Your Fist” follows in all of its anti-authority glory. Chock-full of enough “Oi Oi Oi” chants to rally the masses, this 3-minute track is quintessential Rancid retaliation.

With reminiscing lyrics and a familiar Armstrong tempo, “Collision Course” harkens back to Rancid’s “…And Out Come the Wolves” days, when American punk rock found itself on mainstream music’s frontline. “Evil’s My Friend” brings in that reggae-ska flavor that has peppered Rancid’s sound over the decades, making for a perfect skanking song.

On the title track, Frederiksen and Freeman join Armstrong on lead vocal. This is initially distracting, but speaks volumes of the band’s message of brotherhood and unity. “A Power Inside” is the perfect follow-up to the title track, continuing the positivity of union and inner-strength no matter the cards life has dealt.

“In The Streets” is a punk rock “Freaks Come Out at Night,” chronicling the happenings of late-night street corner huggers. On “Face Up,” Armstrong gives thanks to another day in the struggle after surviving a bar fight. Though tapping out after just 1:35 minutes, this short track still manages to translate vivid imagery and gratefulness to the listener.

The drum-heavy “Already Dead” is a hell-raiser, made for flashes of leather and spikes in a mosh pit full of fast flying elbows and bloody noses. The devilish “Diabolical” speaks to the evil tug-of-war that violence pulls out of the human race. On “Malfunction,” Armstrong and Frederiksen trade off verses smoothly. While the track stays in line lyrically, the drum and guitar arrangement feels almost like a Rolling Stones tune—a little more rock than punk, but a well-received deviation from the norm.

“Now We’re Through With You” calls out the disloyal and maintains the band’s focus on doing right by each other because forgiveness is not an option. “Everybody’s Sufferin’” brings in more surfer-ska and stands out among the other tracks with organ-tones and a slower pace. The album closes with a similar vengeance and fever as it opened on “Grave Digger.” Another track shared by Armstrong and Frederiksen, “Grave Digger” keeps fans in a bit of a purgatory, greedily wanting more. Fortunately for fans, there is a deluxe iTunes version of the album that features an additional three songs.

Collectively, “…Honor Is All We Know” falls in line with typical punk rock albums in that it clocks in at just under 33 minutes. For those who lack the attention span to listen much longer, it is a perfect departure from the real world in about the time it may take to drive to work.

While lyrical intricacies have never been Rancid’s strong suit, the simplicity in message and arrangement continue to serve as a solid backbone on which to build. Despite the fact that Rancid peaked in the mid-90s, the band continues to deliver music with a fresh sound that appeals to the old underground fans as well as young punk rockers who are just discovering the boisterous genre.

As long as Armstrong is at the mic, punk rock will have a distinct voice that will perpetuate a message of unity amidst the defiance. “…Honor Is All We Know” succeeds in this light, and proves that Armstrong and his crew show no signs of backing down from what they came to do—speak loud and proud with a fist in the air and a fight in their hearts.

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Album Review – Shovels & Rope’s “Swimmin’ Time”

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The music world has known its fair share of unforgettable husband-wife duos, from Johnny and June to Jack and Meg. Two years ago, the Charleston-based married duo Shovels & Rope — consisting of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst — exploded onto the festival scene with an unharnessed charisma and on-stage animalistic magnetism that left audiences floored. With non-stop touring and sweat-drenched performances, Trent and Hearst continue to prove that they belong among the ranks of great married musical duos.

Last month, Shovels & Rope offered up more of their soulful, folk-country flair with the duo’s new album, “Swimmin’ Time,” a nautical narrative of love and loss, drenched in haunting harmonies and stripped-down, simple arrangements. On “Swimmin’ Time,” Trent and Hearst dive deep into the abyss of emotion to give listeners a glimpse into their passionate, personal voyage.

The album opens with “The Devil Is All Around,” a vivid gospel-rock love song. With eyes closed, lyrics come to life and the listener can envision Trent and Hearst fighting through life’s obstacles together — ‘til death does part them. “Bridge On Fire” feels like a 50s throwback with a drum-rich tempo and deliberate harmonious crescendos, leaving a trail of burnt hopes and dreams in its ashy wake.

“Evil” turns up the rock ‘n’ roll and perpetuates the album’s devilish theme, with confessions of violent and ugly sins that drip with an honesty strong enough to tear down facades. “After The Storm” starts to pick up the wreckage from the first three tracks and highlights the power of Shovels & Rope’s magically interwoven vocals. Though the bulk of the track stays low and slow, it truly shines in the chorus’ momentous waves and surges of beautiful, yet guttural cries.

“Fish Assassin” is a playful but quick stomp-clapper that brings listeners to the muddy banks of intercostal waterways. “Coping Mechanism” gives listeners a current spin on a 50s rock ‘n’ roll standard, with bouncy background keys and delta blues overtones. “Pinned” leans on Shovels & Rope’s country-folk foundations and translates as a timeless duet about broken promises, cheating and unsolicited advice.

The title track, “Swimmin’ Time” buoys to the surface with church choir intensity and ghostly sink-or-swim premonitions, conjuring up buried thoughts of an apocalyptic flood. In line with the aquatic theme, “Stono River Blues” pays tribute to the waterway that flows near the duo’s home, and evokes images of Trent and Hearst exploring the tidal channel’s nooks and crannies. While the track can certainly be taken literally, metaphors are strategically anchored throughout, giving it a depth that is commonly found in Shovels & Rope songwriting.

“Ohio” takes listeners on a trip down to the murky waters of Louisiana with blazing horns and a gritty outlaw story. The brassy sway of “Ohio” adds another layer of sound to the album, giving it an even more interesting acoustic texture. “Mary Ann & One Eyed Dan” is a playful, diner love story filled with faith and potential. “Save The World” follows suit with a positivity and sweetness that permeates the energy and love often seen on stage between Trent and Hearst.

The album comes to a close with “Thresher,” a homage to the USS Thresher (SSN-593), a nuclear-powered attack submarine that was lost at sea off the coast of Cape Cod in 1963. The track chronicles the last minutes for the 129 submariners upon the vessel. With moments of faint, garbled communications and fading sonar pings to carry out the track, Shovels & Rope recreates the sinking with an eerie authenticity. Ending the album with “Thresher” leaves listeners mournful and uneasy, but also forces introspective and empathetic thought. It represents the duo’s intention and intensity like no other song on the album.

“Swimmin’ Time” may just be one of this year’s best albums. In an age when listeners can pick and choose tracks from any album, track order and album themes seem to get lost in the iTunes shuffle. However, “Swimmin’ Time” is an album that needs to be listened to from start to finish, in order. Trent and Hearst have created an emblematic masterpiece that is greater than the sum of its parts. Collectively, the album floats above the rest while maintaining a depth of soul and spirit that can shine through the thickest, foggy night. “Swimmin’ Time” sails effortlessly across the most critical of ears and marks another success in Shovels & Rope’s musical passage.

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Album Review – Jack White’s “Lazaretto”

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Through a cloud of lingering personal drama and potentially damning press, eccentric-rocker Jack White emerges triumphantly with his second solo album, “Lazaretto.” White, who is well-known for blurring musical boundaries in unpredictable ways, presents an appealing juxtaposition between Detroit blues and rock and Nashville honky-tonk country on “Lazaretto.”

To follow up the success of his first solo album, “Blunderbuss,” White decided to take a new approach to songwriting, making the two albums quite distinct from one another. “Lazaretto” pulls inspiration from a collection of plays White wrote when he was 19 years old and recently rediscovered. Over the course of a year and a half, characters and storylines from White’s 19 year old imagination found homes in each of the album’s 11 tracks.

The album opener, “Three Women” is a funky blues tune in which White fills emotional voids with a woman in every port. The title track follows, providing an electric mash-up of rock and rap reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine as White shows off his guitar prowess and jagged verses. “Lazaretto” also gives listeners the first hint of Nashville influence as the song closes with a wailing fiddle, before leading into “Temporary Ground.”

“Temporary Ground,” along with “Entitlement,” capitalize on traditional country instrumentation and harmonies, but do not commit completely to the genre. On both tracks, White stays true to his distinct vocals, but surrounds them with twang harmonies, pedal steel and fiddle, submitting his own take on country music. A river of sarcasm runs through “Entitlement,” and while it may have been influenced by White’s observations in the mid-90s, lyrics like, “Though the world may be spoiled and getting worse every day, don’t they feel like they cheated somehow,” seem to ring even truer today.

“Would You Fight For My Love?” features intense percussion and eerie howls, but what stands out most is White’s passionate yet panicked vocal performance, implying that perhaps his more recent turbulent relationships weaseled their way into the song. The album’s only instrumental, “High Ball Stepper,” takes listeners on a dark ominous walk through the woods, as a banshee-esque violin hollers underneath White’s lightning rod electric guitar solos.

“Just One Drink” is a fun juke-joint cocktail of blues and country that channels a little Buddy Holly, while “Alone in my Home” ramps up the pop factor with flirty keys and day-dreamy female harmonies, despite the song’s dejected theme of solitude.

“That Black Bat Licorice,” which competes with “Lazaretto” as the album’s top rock and roll track, brings in yet another genre with reggae-like backbeats. With ironic lyrics like, “I want to cut out my tongue and let you hold on to it for me, ‘cause without my skills to amplify my sounds it might get boring,” perhaps White is foreshadowing the need to keep his strong opinions about others to himself, or perhaps not.

“I Think I Found The Culprit” has a dramatic outlaw feel with rock-country flair that peaks and dips throughout the track. The final track, “Want and Able” is like having an angel and devil perched on each shoulder and trying to make a decision. Here, as on many “Blunderbuss” and “Lazaretto” tracks, the keys play a central role in the collective sound of the song. Whether through the buzz of an organ or the tickling of ivories, White’s appreciation for the piano continues to be evident with “Lazaretto.”

Overall, “Lazaretto” translates like a collection of short-stories written by different authors, reaffirming that White’s experimental nature is alive and well in Music City. The album offers listeners a genre clash that could initially feel distracting, but instead keeps ears perked for nuance and surprises around each bend of the chords. The instrumentation, while crazy and impulsive at times, stands tall against the lyrics, proving once again that White is not in it for the songwriting glory, but rather the overall auditory texture of the song.

As White’s personal life and professional opinions continue to stand blazing hot in the media’s spotlight, it is obvious that strong ties will be made to the themes in “Lazaretto.” However, the truth is that while many of the tracks could be interpreted as intimately tied to his current woes, listeners and critics will never quite know whose story White is telling, and in that intention lies the genius that is Jack White.

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Album Review: Time Sawyer’s “Disguise the Limits”

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The Charlotte-based folk-rock quartet Time Sawyer ups the ante with its fifth LP, “Disguise the Limits.”

Made up of Clay Stirewalt (drums), Houston Norris (banjo), Kurt Layell (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Sam Tayloe (guitar, vocals), Time Sawyer crafts music that takes an honest look at life and builds on the rustic musical traditions of western N.C.

Though still in its infancy, the band has released five albums in four years. Based on the quality of “Disguise the Limits” it appears that Tayloe and Layell’s songwriting well is far from drying up. This album offers a fresh take on the familiar themes of life on the road and love and heartbreak, while bringing a little more grit and gravel than previous installments like “Headed Home” and “Come On In.” The folk has been dialed down, the rock turned up and, thankfully, the banjo remains on cruise-control, carrying the album through its 12 tracks with the punchy grace of an instrument that can do no wrong.

The album opens with “Better Off,” an upbeat break-up tune that sets the tone for the rest that follows. “Appalachian Bound” is the perfect rock-blues getaway anthem — chock full of moonshine barrels, brushes with the law and the wide- open road. On “A Little Bluer,” Time Sawyer hangs up its spurs and succumbs to that moment when love trumps all and future dreams grow straight from the heart. “How It’s Gonna Be” strikes a sweet balance between acoustic and electric, with a distant rolling banjo, muted organ and finely placed guitar riffs.

“Best Be Going” demands attention with its no regrets catchy chorus reminiscent of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” It is appropriately followed by “A Far Away Farewell from Rose,” perhaps the decades-later follow-up to that fateful day depicted in “Best Be Going.” This jump from youthful defiance to aged reflection stays true to the band’s moniker, and keeps the theme of time at the forefront.

The album pumps the breaks with its closing tracks. “Working Construction” returns to the band’s folk tendencies without feeling recycled or redundant. “West From the Farm” is a heart-wrenching ballad where Tayloe’s vocals drip with authenticity and harmonies, and horns lift lyrics to a weighty place that reveals the pain and remorse tied to lost love. “Tired of this Tired” soars with delicate finger-picking and relevant lyrics that speak to the daily tedium that can drain the heart’s passion and unravel the mind.

The true shining moment on “Disguise the Limits” comes on “210,” where lyrics tell the story of a scorned lover driven to murder. The Mexico-bound outlaw tale is perfectly accompanied by the distant haunted whine of the pedal steel and take-to-the-road banjo runs. “210” is followed and further elevated by “It’s Over (210 Outro),” which fades into a “Hotel California”-esque instrumental that beckons images of a dusty drive into the sunset. Taken together, these two tracks reveal Time Sawyer’s growing ability to create vivid imagery through songwriting and arrangement.

Collectively, “Disguise the Limits” succeeds by combing the fugitive attitude of “Roadhouse” and “Smokey and the Bandit” with the heartbreaking infidelity and reality of “Honeysuckle Rose.” Runaway, tender, playful and pensive moments are strewn strategically throughout the album, creating a cohesive storyline that undulates like the plot of a favorite desperado movie. The album shows a definite progression and maturation despite the band’s short timeline, and is sure to gain momentum as one of the better albums released by a rising North Carolinian band this year.

In addition to the release of “Disguise the Limits,” 2014 will continue to be a huge year for Time Sawyer as the band makes its debut at MerleFest in Wilkesboro, N.C. on Sunday, April 27. Visit www.timesawyer.com to learn more.

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IROCKE to Live Stream Avett Brothers’ Letterman Performance

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IROCKE, the #1 source for live streaming concerts around the world, will be live streaming The Avett Brothers’ performance on Letterman tomorrow night.  Even if you can’t be there in person, you can still catch all of the action online!

RSVP here and be sure to tune in on Wednesday, Oct. 30 (8:00 PM, ET/5:00 PM, PT).

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Album Reivew – The Avett Brothers’ “Magpie and the Dandelion”

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F*&k yeah, my boys are back.

~Anonymous longtime Avett fan

Sometimes you just have to be blunt about the bands you love. With The Avett Brothers’ eighth studio album out today, Magpie and the Dandelion, brothers Scott and Seth Avett kick the dirt off of their roots and plant a new crop of songs that are fixin’ to take full bloom.

Collectively, Magpie and the Dandelion is a polished throwback that is stripped of cumbersome instrumentation and soundboard tricks, while still maintaining the clean studio sound that comes with a Rick Rubin production–a winning combination. Perhaps Rubin finally decided to step back and let the boys do what they do best–make music.

While this may be the case, it was surprising to learn that Magpie and the Dandelion was recorded around the same time that The Avett Brothers recorded last year’s album, The Carpenter.  Side-by-side these albums feel very different. The Carpenter walks the line between grand themes of life and death, while Magpie and the Dandelion returns to the intimate storytelling that has served the brothers well from their humble beginnings.

“Pack the old love letters up. We will read them when we forget why we left here.

The Avetts aren’t strangers to a brutally honest and moving love letter.  They’ve laid out their fears and feelings for listeners several times before in songs like “November Blue,” “If It’s The Beaches,” “My Last Song to Jenny,” and basically every song in the “Pretty Girl” series.

When these earlier songs were written the boys were bushwhacking their way through the early phases of love, often in an emotionally fervent state. Conversely, the songs on Magpie and the Dandelion reveal that the Avetts have moved on to a new, more complicated chapter of love–one that has been forced to withstand the hardships of life on the road, the struggles of caring for a sick child, and the possibility of growing old alone.

There is an authenticity that comes with bearing one’s soul for the world to see—laying out the mistakes, the doubts, the fears.  This album continues to propel the story of a band of brothers who have been in the game for over a decade.   Now they look back on where they have been, wonder what they may have done differently, and hope to find answers beyond the bright lights of fame.

Put the sketches and the notes in the box labeled ‘Burn With Furniture’

The album opens with “Open Ended Life,” a southern rock barn-burner packed with punchy banjo, electric guitar solos, a feverish fiddle, and the bluesy whine of G. Love’s harmonica.  As if denouncing “If It’s The Beaches,” the boys light fire to their past–love letters and all–watch in the rear-view mirror as it burns to the ground, and speed away in an old beat-up truck.  This track is pure bonfire, beer-drinking, hoot and holler fun, straight from the hills of North Carolina.

It’s alright if you finally stop caring, just don’t go and tell someone that does.

On “Morning Song” the mood becomes more introspective and the instrumentation simplified.  Piano and drums round out the sound as Scott and Seth sing of the reality that accompanies embarking on life’s journeys alone.  The harmonies alone will cut you to the core.  With the song’s closing chorus, the listener is flooded with overwhelming emotion, as the beautiful voices of Avett family members sing, “I have to find that melody alone.” “Morning Song” evokes feelings of hope despite despair, and will surely be added to the canon of outstanding folk-ballads that have come from the minds and hearts of these men.

Whoa oh whoa.

The Avetts are masters of bending and blending genres.  On “Never Been Alive,” Seth manages to layer Pink Floyd’s dreamy “Speak to Me/Breathe” with a Sam Cooke vocal cadence.  This combination yields a deliberately subdued ballad that feels trippy, but sluggish at times.  Though “Never Been Alive” has been road tested for several years, it remains an underdog, perhaps having not yet reached its full potential.

Let me see your skeleton, well before your life is done.

The album’s first single “Another is Waiting” is definitely the most radio friendly folk-pop track of the collection.  Full of rambling banjo runs and tight drum lines, “Another is Waiting” speaks to the dangers of any industry that chews up and spits out protégés with little regard.  This track’s positive message is sure to translate over radio airwaves to young, impressionable listeners worldwide.

Bring your love to me. I will hold it like a dandelion.

During a songwriter’s session at the Newport Folk Festival, Seth was asked how he decides what becomes an Avett Brother song versus a Darling song.  With a thoughtful pause, he replied, “I have to actively answer that question every time an idea comes up.  I can’t say that I always know, because a lot of times I am surprised at what makes sense for us to present together.  But, the Darling songs that end up just becoming Darling songs, they look to me the same way that Scott’s paintings do, as far as this is a singular vision.”

In listening to “Bring Your Love To Me,” it appears that perhaps a Darling song slipped into the pile of 30-plus songs that the band initially brought to Rubin.  Hearing fingertips sliding on tinny strings, Seth’s pleading promise to protect a fragile love, and the warm tones of intermittent hums offers fans a little glimpse into what can be expected on the fourth Darling installment.

I want to be there for you, and when I come home will you still want me to?

Did someone say “Norwegian Wood?” It’s not the first time that Beatles have found their way into an Avett Brothers’ song.  Musical influences unconsciously shape the sound of every band, but what makes “Good To You” unique is that it is a heart-wrenching, honest and emotionally transparent personal account that could have only come from this band.  On this piano lullaby, Scott and bassist Bob Crawford share intentions and fears with their families, in light of the fact that their time away from home may come with sobering consequences.

Part from me, I would not dare take someone in love with me where I’m going.

“Apart From Me” stands alone as the album’s most jaw-dropping ballad.  The songwriting on this track matches that of “Murder in the City,” raw, powerful, and thought-provoking.  Scott’s voice tears through the listener’s soul, as his gritty exterior crumbles under the weight of past decisions.  Looking back on the pursuit of his dreams, Scott seems to question the path he led his family down over the course of his career.  Seth’s delicate finger-picking balances the harsh reality of Scott’s words and the listener is left peering into the wilted spirit of this woeful artist.

How long can you live in shame and drop a lifelong curse on your own last name?

Thematically in line with “Good To You” and “Apart From Me,” “Skin and Bones” picks up the pace as the Avetts weigh the pros and cons of the famed artist’s life on the road.  There is an irony that emerges as lyrics speak of the “beast” that drives the band down the road farther away from home.

This “beast” has reared its ugly head before, particularly when Scott has discussed how he struggles to find balance between his artistic passion and everyday obligations.  At his most recent art talk, Scott explained, “Artists are put on this planet to do…three things.  [Ruskin] says we are here to see, and to feel, and to document.  The artist can try to think, but he’s not here to do that.  He can try to explain and analyze, but he’s not here to do that.  He can go to parties but he’s not here to party.  He can’t.  He really can’t…As soon as he feels something he has to act on it and move on it.”  With lyrics like “It’s the tin and the board that keeps me going home, but it’s who I am that won’t let me alone,” it appears almost impossible to tame the artist’s inner beast, thus the push and pull carries on.

Bring me light from where I thought it was dark. Be the spark that has a chance to light a candle.”

“Souls Like The Wheels” is a welcomed live addition to this studio album.  Originally released as a studio track on The Second Gleam in 2008, this live version of “Souls Like The Wheels” features Seth, his guitar, and an amazed audience at The Fabulous Fox Theater in St. Louis, MO last year.  Even with the occasional hoot and holler from those fans you’d like to punch for making noise during ballads (in particular the girls who scream “We love you Seth!”…seriously if you are one of those girls, please just stop), this version evokes images of Seth and his HD-35 at the front of the stage in the warm glowing embrace of the spotlight.  These are the moments when fans know they are witnessing greatness.

I’ve got love pouring out of my veins, but it’s all vanity.

No Avett ablum would be complete without one of Seth’s face-melting electric guitar solos.  On “Vanity,” Seth and Scott trade verses, and tackle the ugly truth that underpins our words and actions. Recently, Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell joined the band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to put his own rock-god spin on the song, proving that he’s still got the chops that served him so well in the 90s.  “Vanity” stands alone in its rock-ballad style, while still contributing to the album as a whole.

I will seek the approval of no one but you, in love for the changes I take.

Magpie and the Dandelion closes with “The Clearness Is Gone,” a waltz-ballad previously released as a bonus track on The Carpenter.  The Avetts plug in and offer listeners a strong finish to an album that chronicles the band’s journey.  Though the band forges ahead into the bright lights, “The Clearness is Gone” contains muted hints of “Oh What a Nightmare.”  Perhaps this nod to their former-selves serves as a subtle message to their fans that have started to question the band’s direction.  Those fans should trust that deep down inside of these men, there is a screaming Avett just waiting to go berserk, melt into the stage and then dive into a sea of sweaty fans.

We won’t waste a long goodbye on the smoke or foolish lies that finally passed us.

Magpie and the Dandelion just feels like home.  It successfully bridges the gap between the fan who boasts about being among a handful of people at the 2007 Plan 9 Emotionalism record release show and the fan who first experienced the life-altering sound of Avett harmonies on Bonnaroo’s main stage in 2012.  The album features more banjo for the bluegrass-loving fans, top-notch songwriting for the lyric-hungry fans, electric guitar riffs for old Nemo fans, and a thoughtful musical progression and growth for the fans that actually appreciate watching these talented men mature and fight to feel comfortable in their own skin.  Today, a collective exhale and “thank you” can be heard across the spectrum of Avett fans as they sit down and take in the phenomenal work that is Magpie and the Dandelion.

**For fans that can’t get enough of The Avett Brothers, there is a deluxe Target-exclusive version of Magpie and the Dandelion that includes six unreleased demos off of the album**

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