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True Sadness
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  • There's a melancholy to the title of the Avett Brothers' 2016 album True Sadness, but the album's tone doesn't mirror its name. Certainly, there's a bit of a sorrowful undercurrent, something that surfaces on "Divorce Separation Blues," but often there's a buoyancy to the music's spirit, a lightness that's evident even in the burnished bluegrass ballads, tunes where the harmonies and plucked strings combine into a sense of sweetness. Always throwbacks at heart, the Avett Brothers temper their rough-hewn retro affectations by brightening the corners with hints of electronic rhythms and polish, a sly update executed with precision by Rick Rubin. Despite this breezy modern air, the Avett Brothers and Rubin alike are on firmer ground when the amplifiers are cranked just loud enough to growl and the rhythms lumber along with the slow, hazy crawl of Southern rock. This heavier attack distinguishes the Avett Brothers from the ranks of standard-issue Americana -- a genre where austere authenticity often matters more than gut-level force -- but what distinguishes True Sadness from previous Avett albums is how this force intermingles with lighter moments. Sometimes this airiness is evident in ballads that indeed carry a melancholic pull; sometimes the levity derives from those camouflaged electronic elements, moments that play like sun drifting in from parted clouds. Tonally, these seemingly conflicted feelings match because they play like the sadness is slowly lifting away. Far from being an album for wallowing in the depths of grief, True Sadness is a record about the emergence of hope. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Professional Reviews
Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "On the title song, a tight beat propels verses alluding to rehab, toxic masculinity and universal hurt....But it feels like the record's most profound celebration -- just joyous strumming, bowing and the sound of earnest voices collectively making light out of dark."

Entertainment Weekly - "[The album] both treads familiar ground and maps out new terrain. The first few songs showcase a sound the Brothers have developed over the past decade and a half: twangy guitars, feel-good harmonies, and strings courtesy of cellist Joe Kwon."

Mojo (Publisher) (p.92) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Doubt and conflict rub against acknowledgment of good fortune, variously wrapped in bluegrass, blues-folk, '50s western soundtracks and the handclap stomp of Queen's 'We Will Rock You' for opener 'Ain't No Man.'"
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