The Avett Brothers have come up nicely in today’s modern country scene, with just a touch of alt-edge to separate them from mainstream Nashville, while still playing modern country music, polish and all. So it’s definitely taking a risk when they embrace the political, even if it’s in a very obvious manner on Closer Than Together.
Closer has numerous songs where the subject matter, and opinion, is blatantly obvious, and not exactly revelatory, like the troubled patriot of “We Americans”, anti-violence & anti-gun “Bang Bang”, and pro-female “New Woman’s World”. Any woke Brooklyn hipster is going to find these pieces heavy-handed and late to the movement (but they weren’t listening to The Avett Brothers anyway), while some of their Middle American fan base might wish they’d ‘just stick to music.’ Which actually makes it kind of brave, kind of, as their hearts are definitely in the right place. Furthermore, further listens show that they’re not preaching as much as trying to figure things out for themselves. Still, it’s noteworthy that the best songs are far less pedantic, like the great upswing of “Locked Up” & “C Sections and Railway Trestles”, or the slice-of-life storytelling on “Long Story Short”, which does a better job of connecting to life today than the more obvious songs.
Writing political music is hard, as it’s way too easy to be way too blatant & preachy – numerous acclaimed country and/or indie songwriters have swung and missed in the twenty-first century. So don’t judge The Avett Brothers too harshly for Closer Than Together – just be happy for them, and hope that their fans are too.