Some hard-core Avett Brothers fans will inevitably see I And Love And You as the scrappy folk-rock band’s major-label sellout move—probably because that’s exactly what it is. While previous Avett Brothers records bristle with furiously strummed guitars and infectiously yelping choruses, I And Love And You features mostly pretty, pensive, piano-based ballads like the moving title track, where Scott and Seth Avett leave North Carolina behind and eagerly ship off to Brooklyn. Recalling Elton John or Ben Folds at his most Southern-sounding, I And Love And You deserves the larger audience it’s been designed for, wrapping shamelessly sentimental, effortlessly beautiful songs in a warm, inviting mellow-rock package.
Superstar producer/California Zen master Rick Rubin deserves some of the credit for the album’s early-’70s Laurel Canyon vibe, as does the small army of L.A. session pros that supply an appropriately lush backdrop of keyboards and strings for the Avetts’ charmingly simple guitar-and-voice-based story-sketches. On the softly chugging “Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise,” Scott Avett even shows a proclivity for SoCal sensitive-guy solipsism, singing that “your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected,” and instead “you have to decide what to be and go be it”—a line that sounds lifted from the back of a VW bus. But the music speaks most eloquently on I And Love And You, delivered in stunning brotherly harmony back to a bucolic, West Coast wonderland.