Closer Than Together
The Avett Brothers long ago figured out how to fill the corners of cavernous arenas with earnest energy using primarily acoustic instruments. Seth Avett gave advance warning via social media that this album would represent a socially conscious turn for him, his brother Scott, and their longtime bandmates. They push the folk and pop-punk threads in their music to galvanizing extremes on this Rick Rubin-produced record, while treating national concerns with the warmheartedness that they usually reserve for inner and interpersonal yearnings. The performances are often buoyant (“Locked Up,” “High Steppin’”) and the writing openly emotional, but several songs (including “Tell the Truth,” “New Woman’s World,” and “We Americans”) give priority to expressions of penitence. “I am a son of Uncle Sam, and I struggle to understand the good and evil,” Seth sings, his delivery crisp and purposeful, “but I’m doing the best I can, in a place built on stolen land with stolen people.” During dense folk ballads like “Long Story Short” and “C Sections and Railway Trestles,” the stories convey a sense of caretaking responsibility for younger generations, the Avetts striving to make all of these gestures feel ennobling.