The Avett Brothers have fit nicely into today’s Americana boom – perhaps a bit too nicely. Produced by Rick Rubin, their prior records had all the Americana hallmarks, folk instruments, country-twang, etc., but also felt a little ‘for mass appeal.’ That particularly comes up on True Sadness, which layers blatant, obvious Americana upon nice tunes.
Nowhere is this more clear than “Divorce Separation Blues”, a song so heavy-handedly about a marriage break-up that it includes the lines, “Well now I’m Bound to break a promise / One I made to God and you,” and out-and-out yodeling. The heart-on-the-sleeve emotions to pieces such as “No Hard Feelings” are straightforward to the point of lacking depth. Meanwhile, other numbers like the title track and following “I Wish I Was” come off like ‘standard’ Avett Brothers.
There are some moments that really work on True Sadness. Opener “Ain’t No Man” is a big choral revival that doesn’t feel obvious, “Satan Pulls the Strings” is a better backwoods jam, and “Victims of Life” is some very catchy upbeat Avett Brothers. It’s not surprising that a band who’s headlined Madison Square Garden (QRO photos) is wide appeal, but the country-folk on True Sadness is so wide appeal as to sometimes be as deep as a kiddie pool.