My introduction to the hard-working North Carolina string trio was from its website (theavettbrothers.com) and the home-movie-quality video for "November Blue," a ballad of love and departure rendered with a wistful piano line and stunning vocal harmonies. As I absorbed it again and again, the song sort of skewered my heart and presented it back to me, sanguine and trembling. Although "November Blue" doesn't show up on Four Thieves Gone, the Brothers' third full-length, having more than an hour's worth of the Avetts to savor more than makes up for the lack. Vocals come from brothers Seth and Scott, along with guitar, banjo, and occasional piano; Bob Crawford rumbles on upright bass. Together, these three distill front-porch breeze shooting, rockin' Led Zep-ish acousticisms, city mouse/country mouse poetics, romantic barn dance serenading, and good-time Appalachian piss and vinegar into a deeply personal, relentlessly playful work of unpretentious genius.
They start frenzied with the three-and-a-half-minute epic mission statement of "Talk on Indolence," veering from backwoods beatnik jive to full-throated, street-corner anthemizing ("Remember/One time/I got/Raging drunk with you!"), complete with handclap and knee-slap percussion. They end up lazing under the dogwood tree in the backyard, plucking out the country parable of "Four Thieves Gone." In between, East Village basement minstrel Paleface shows up with a scotch-scratched voice and harmonica to jig on "Dancing Daze" and "The Fall," while the boys go antipunk on the massive "Colorshow" and waltz and grin through "Pretend Love." And the big-city lament of "Famous Flower of Manhattan" will haunt you for days. No slick production frills, all bare-bones honesty. Believe it.