The Magpie and the Dandelion is the 8th studio album from North Carolina natives the Avett Brothers. I recall in 2009 when they released I and Love and You that they began to receive a bit of attention over here and they toured the album to rave reviews, but since then they have dropped off the radar here in Australia, although they have continued to have commercial success in the U.S. I came to this album not knowing what to expect, I and Love and You was a beautiful record that had moment of fiery punkish outbursts that didn't quite fit with their new sound. Open Ended Life has that emotive west coast sound but with a banjo that takes it off on another tangent, it returns to earth with a bluesy rasping harp in the chorus. That is the great thing about this band, they won't compromise and are prepared to add different elements to each song. Every album should start off with a statement of intent,
Pack a change of clothes
And a pillow for the open road for when we drift off to sleep
Put the sketches and the notes in a box labelled burn with furniture
We will watch the fire burn the entire house we built down to ashes.
The song builds up pace towards the end. taking a distinctly country turn with fiddle and banjo intertwining. Morning Song is mournful, organ seeps in as the despair takes hold, their songwriting continues to mature and develop with each album.
Hurt so bad
You don't come round here no more
Worse than that
Nothing's really helping I've been thinking
About drinking again.
The ending builds and swirls with added backing vocals adding to the dramatic feel of the song. Another is Waiting is another sprightly banjo driven song, it makes you think of those early Eagles albums, well maybe the first where there was an identifiable country sound. Scott and Seth Avett each have distinctive voices, they combine well but they also offer each song a different feel when there is only one vocal. Bring Your Love To Me is subtle a mixing of North Carolina hill country and the wide open spaces of California. Good To You offers a change of pace, piano that is grounded by the sound of a cello, it's a song about the strain that being away has on family life,
When your best friend got married I was off and gone
You said it wasn't a problem that there was nothing wrong with
Putting my worm, my art and my songs
Before spending time at the wedding
As I listened over the phone line
You talked you sounded so sad
Alone in a room full of strangers
Some dude saying I treat you bad
Who is this guy and what does he know
Apparently more than I do
Part From Me continues that theme of the hardships of life on the road, the musicians endless struggle as the road calls and it must be answered. The road is a harsh boss, as the miles roll along the further from home you drift but the audiences keep you going from town to town. This is a remarkable album from a band that continue to retain the essence of their sound, never diluting it just watching it as it grows and sustains itself.