In the annals of album titles, it doesn’t get much worse than Emotionalism
. If you’re Sarah McLachlan, maybe. But for three North Carolina roots rockers, the title—not to mention a few overly sappy tracks—comes dangerously close to some serious metrosexual mushiness. (There’s a song titled “The Ballad of Love & Hate” that is, literally, a discussion between the two feelings. Pass the Zima and two Zoloft, please.)
There’s such a thing as being too emotionally available, but somehow, despite all the intermittent sentiment, this otherwise loose collection is buoyant enough to rise above any listener’s initial cynicism. Even mine.
At their best, songsmithing brothers Seth and Scott (and bassist Bob Crawford) have an uncanny ability to put raw and irreverent songs across with sparkling polish. It starts with a stripped-down bluegrass foundation of acoustic guitar, upright bass, banjo, and reedy vocals. But where it goes from there—arrangements with Hammond B3, piano, electric guitar, mandolin and, most notably, soaring harmonies—is what makes Emotionalism resonate. Songs like “Paranoia in B Major” and “Die Die Die” are great fun and wonderfully written, and “Go To Sleep” carries the promise of being a blast in concert.
Keep the Avett Brothers away from their feelings and they have all the makings of an exceptional band.
The Avett Brothers play the Badlander Friday, Aug. 3, at 9 PM. $15.