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Simple pleasures from
The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers - The Gleam
(Ramseur Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 8, 2006
The Avett Brothers

Review by Tony Bonyata

Although they've been putting out records since 2000 I must admit that the North Carolina-based band The Avett Brothers have largely escaped my radar. Sure I've heard about their infusion of bluegrass, country, ragtime and punk, and have also caught an earful on their incendiary live shows that, word has it, channels both the unbridled energy of The White Stripes' Jack White and the uncorked white lightning of The Allman Brothers in their prime, but, unfortunately, I've never previously had the pleasure to witness them onstage or on record.

Now, more than a half-decade after brothers Scott and Seth Avett began their recording career, a proper, if not somewhat surprising, introduction has been made with their new six-song EP entitled The Gleam. Where first impressions are often everything, my initial reaction to this set of gentle acoustic folk numbers was that I may have entered at the wrong moment of their career. I was expecting to hear the fabled twisted bluegrass delivered through the clenched teeth of punk and instead got twenty minutes of straight-up mellow folk music, with no chaser.

Since my assumptions on the siblings were influenced by what I've only read and heard, I decided to listen to these songs again, only this time more intently and without any preconceived expectations. What unfolded were six simple, yet timeless acoustic songs that sounded as if they were hand-delivered down from the mountains. Hushed acoustic guitars, loamy harmonica and one handsome melody after another graces this slight sea-change of an effort for the duo.

The beautiful, almost Dylan-esque melody and light six-string flamenco finger-picking of "If It's The Beaches" is perfectly wedded with violin, adding both a poignancy and sense of sorrow to the track. The pretty harmonies and swaying, sing-along quality of "When I Drink" goes down perfectly with the siblings' whiskey-soaked confessional, while the naked folk simplicity of "Yard Sale" seems to summon the ghosts from the embers of a Civil War campsite. The frail opening track "Sanguine," although simplistic in composition, reveals a new depth with each passing spin.

While The Gleam may not prove the perfect introduction to the brothers Avett, especially those fueled on their more intense and frenzied earlier works, it sure was a nice way for me to finally get a chance to meet these guys.

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