On this live-wire debut, the work of Seth and Scott Avett and their standup-bass-playing friend, Bob Crawford, exudes much of the same exhilarating sense of discovery that characterized Uncle Tupelo’s March 16-20, 1992 and the Gourds’ Dem’s Good Beeble. It’s as if the Concord, North Carolina, group stumbled upon a stack of recordings from fellow brothers the Stanleys and the Louvins just a week before.
Adding texture to the proceedings are several wild-cards that lurk among the pumped-up old-time-inspired numbers, songs such as “Pretty Girl From Locust” with a muted jauntiness (courtesy of the interplay between Seth’s piano and Scott’s gently plucked banjo) that sounds like something from the Lullaby for the Scud Palace Boys school. There’s also “My Last Song To Jenny”, a guitar ballad with just enough earthiness to make it perfect for modern rockers ready to take that initial toe-dip in the O Brother stream.
About the third time through A Carolina Jubilee, it’ll hit you that the writing is also pretty damn swell — never better than on “Me And God”, when the protagonist offers this list: “I found God in a soft woman’s hair/A long day’s work and a good sittin’ chair/The ups and downs of the treble clef lines/And five miles to go on an interstate sign.”
Later in the same song, he admits to occasionally using curse words when he prays. Confession is good for the soul, and the same can be said for the vibrant and wise music of the Avett Brothers.