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The Avett Brothers

FOUR THIEVES GONE • The Avett Brothers

If old-timey icon Dock Boggs, the Violent Femmes, Hank Williams, the Everly Brothers, and the freakshow sidecar of the carnival all had a wreck, it might sound something like the Avett Brothers. And that's a good thing. The renegade punk roots trio attempts to bring the ferocious energy of their live show to their new album, Four Thieves Gone, with amazing success.

The song titles read like the titles at a Greenwich Village outsider art show--"Colorshow," "Distraction #74," "The Lowering," "Famous Flower Of Manhattan"--and the songs themselves are impressive constructions of dark wit, raw emotions and theater (think, perhaps, of a poetry slam). The album embodies the drama and energy of the young, practically hormonal in its sudden surges and ebbs. It does not, however, seem random, just exuberant and intense and immensely entertaining if you're willing to buckle up and go for the ride. Banjos pop out at you, pianos thunder by, guitars flutter, strum and crash, and voices alternately serenade and scream at you--a veritable dark carnival of song and sound.

The Avett Brothers are at their most tuneful and affecting, though, when they sing their brother harmonies on quieter gems like "Pretend Love." It's an inspired juxtaposition, this barely controlled folksy mayhem shot through with quiet moments when their voices, their great melodies, and the trenchant intelligence of their words really shine. To close Four Thieves Gone, the Avett Brothers leave us with a edgy nursery rhyme of a song, the title track: "One thief left / went to jail / he left a mile-long paper trail / he's in for life / he doesn't care / it's worth the songs that put him there." Sounds like the story of these passionate, young musicians' lives. • Judith Edelman

the Avetts

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