The Avett Brothers

Magpie and the Dandelion

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Recorded at the same sessions that produced 2012's The Carpenter, 2013's Magpie and the Dandelion doesn't play like leftovers, which is to the credit of both the Avett Brothers and their producer Rick Rubin. Magpie and the Dandelion consciously evokes past Americana, stretching back beyond the Band but anchored there, often incorporating a harder-rocking edge reminiscent of former Rubin patrons Black Crowes. The key to appreciating the Avett Brothers is to realize they see themselves as heirs to this tradition, happy to accentuate their rustic roots with banjos and weary harmonies because they suggest authenticity. Where their real strength lies is not in instrumental virtuosity or song (although many of the tunes here are sturdy enough) but rather in feel: they capture an indistinct past where guitars are an enduring virtue. Perhaps the Avetts are best when they run a little bit loose and ragged, letting the tempos push a little bit hard, allowing their harmonies to clash and happy to have their loose ends remain untied. Often, this means that the ballads are just a shade too tidy -- they're mannered in a way almost none of the rest of the record is -- but still Magpie and the Dandelion underscores how the appeal of the Avett Brothers remains in their indebtedness to the past without being bogged down by its legacy.

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