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There is no harmony like brotherly harmony. Something indelible in the weave of voices and play of sensibilities is stamped into the fraternal DNA and also stems from a lifetime of shared experiences. You can hear it in classic brother acts across the musical spectrum, from the Louvin Brothers to the Everly Brothers and on down the decades through the Wilson brothers (Beach Boys), the Davies brothers (Kinks), the Allman Brothers and even the Brothers Gibb (a.k.a., the Bee Gees). You can clearly hear fraternal magic at work in the songs of Scott and Seth Avett, better known as the Avett Brothers, as well.
That magic is abundantly evident on I and Love and You, the Avett Brothers’ big-label debut. Its 13 songs are delivered in a style that defies pigeonholing but might be described as a rootsy amalgam of folk, country, bluegrass, rock and pop - even a jab of punk-style dynamics here and there. Drawn by the naked honesty of their songs and the rousing intensity of their live shows, legendary producer and talent scout Rick Rubin signed the Avett Brothers - consisting of siblings Scott and Seth, plus bassist Bob Crawford - to his American Recordings label in 2008.
"As soon as I heard the depth in their singing and songwriting, I was in for the ride," says Rubin, who has worked with some of the most talented mavericks in the business, including Johnny Cash, Tom Petty and The Dixie Chicks. "The Avetts’ songs have such a sincere emotional resonance. The purity of the messages stops you in your tracks. It’s unusual to hear such open-hearted personal sentiment from young artists today."
For their own part, the Avett Brothers instantly felt at home in the studio with Rubin. "While growing up, his work influenced us in some weird way to do what we do, and it influenced our sound quite a bit, too. I mean, from the Beastie Boys to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Johnny Cash, we explored all those records he did in depth. We felt comfortable working with someone we had faith in based on his credentials and track record. We wouldn’t be that way for anybody, we really wouldn’t."
By the time Rubin found them, the Avett Brothers had compiled their own impressive track record. They’d already issued five full length albums and two EPs, on their manager’s Ramseur Records label. They debuted in 2001 with a self-titled six-song EP and then issued a full-fledged album, Country Was, a year later. The heart of their catalog is the albums that followed: Mignonette (2004), Four Thieves Gone (2006) and Emotionalism (2007), which offered a generous 49 songs among them. The Avett Brothers’ latest release, an EP called The Gleam II, reached #82 on Billboard’s Top Albums chart in 2008 - quite a showing for an independent CD with minimal marketing and publicity.
Over the years, the Avett Brothers built up a sizable following based on their rowdy, infectious stage shows. In concert, the high-flying ensemble tears through tunes with unbridled energy, popping banjo and guitar strings right and left while inciting stomping singalongs among audiences that appear to know every word. At times they would seemingly create their own subgenre onstage - "punkgrass," for lack of a better word. This much is for certain: the Avett Brothers are a grassroots phenomenon, built from the ground up. I and Love and You marks the point at which they’re poised, with perfect timing, to break through to a broader audience.
I and Love and You was rehearsed and recorded at the Document Room, located high on a hillside in Malibu, California. After cutting discs at various spots around their native North Carolina for eight years, the Avett Brothers were ready to take on the challenge of making an album at a top-of-the-line studio on the far side of the continent. The brothers were hardly unfamiliar with the Golden State, as they’d been visiting family in the Sacramento area since childhood and had gigged around California in recent years. But working with Rick Rubin in Malibu represented a giant step forward.
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