The Avett Brothers: Magpie and the Dandelions (Album Review)

The Avett Brothers are back with their 8th studio album, it’s a follow-up that builds from the foundation of their previous album, The Carpenter. This album is more upbeat, a melodic splendor with grander sentiments of joy and more explorations into the trials and tribulations of being a musician.

Recorded at the same time as The Carpenter, it is a complimentary record that covers similar ground, in terms of overall musical direction. Something that you can always count on with The Avett’s is they’re straight shooters when it comes to lyrical insights, often giving listeners a peak into the stark and lonely nights on the tour bus that can haunt a soul.

It’s this aspect that after a multitude of records, still give them a down-home accessibility. They recognize that though life has had its share of regrets, it’s too late to turn back now.

The record is an eclectic mix of the various aspects of the general genre known as, Americana. This is true blue Americana, at its finest, a hodge-podge of bluegrass, folk, rock and more. That’s the thing about Americana; you can’t represent the restless spirit of the people it’s speaking to, without sprinkling a little bit of everything into what is being said. 

Opening the album is “Open Ended Life” which has a definitive rocky mountain feel and features a fantastic harmonica rift. It's one of the more infectiously upbeat tunes from the record. “Morning Song” is one of two standouts, an inspirational, lone wolf anthem with the added warmth of a harmonious group of backing vocals.

“Never Been Alive” is melancholy in tone, which is in juxtaposition, to the lyrics that describe a discovery of happiness and peace. “Another Is Waiting” mirrors “I Never Knew You” from The Carpenter both in musicality and overall rhythm. It offers very little, in terms of variation.

“Bring Your Love to Me” is saccharine without overdoing it, a simple, folksy love song. “Good to You” is the second of two standout tracks from the album. It offers a vulnerable glimpse into a world that requires the constant reconciliation of work, parenthood and spousal responsibilities.

A search for answers from loved ones who have said all is well, when in reality, everything is falling apart. Bob Crawford is given a chance to shine, in a memorable solo. “Apart from Me” is steeped in a beautiful guitar based melody, soft and slow, it’s a quaint jewel. 

“Skin and Bones” is a banjo strumming ballad that eloquently laments life’s turmoil and the countless self-resolutions required to attain harmony. “Vanity” works as a confessional of sorts, the cleansing of a soul that’s been weighed down. The spiral of piano madness that ensues in the latter half gives it a darker edge, a tad of the bluesy 70’s feeling, surfacing in its melody.

“The Clearness is Gone” feels like stepping through the front doors of a saloon, the sad, house musician, painting the vivid portrait of a woman whose love he recalls with bittersweet sentiments.  

The deluxe edition includes demo versions of 6 tracks and a new recording of “Soul Like the Wheels”. This record explores the inner madness of a restless soul with rich instrumentation that acknowledges the philosophies and observations made, are that of someone who hasn't figured everything out, they are still working on it. Learning to love this record is a much easier truth to come to.