The Avett Brothers’ latest album, “The Carpenter,” is built on timeless ambitions. Introspective and mature, it yearns with existential, big-picture poetry about life’s inevitabilities, happy and sad. Much of the banjo-driven boot-stomping of the 2009 hootenanny “I and Love and You” has given way to nodding melancholy.
“We’re men in our 30s, moving toward 40. Hopefully, our lives are becoming filled with less recklessness and more selflessness,” Seth Avett says into the phone from his home in Concord, N.C. “The Carpenter,” he says, attempts to map the landscape that each of us walks, the loneliness and tragedy just around the corner from love and joy.
The album was nominated for a Grammy and has been generally well received by critics (“the sound of a band pushing past an old identity and toward something bigger,” Rolling Stone wrote) and, Avett says, by fans on a just-completed European tour. But is it too gloomy for the beach?
“The answer is yes,” Avett says with a laugh. So, for Sunday’s performance at the Tortuga Music Festival on Fort Lauderdale beach, Avett, brother Scott and bass player Bob Crawford (pictured, from right) will be less focused on commerce than on fun.
Buck Owens, anyone?
“We try to find the spirit of every venue we play,” says Avett, who estimates most of the band’s set lists are created within hours of a gig. “This is an outdoor festival, with beautiful weather. I’m sure we’ll be looking for some kind of celebratory spirit.”
This will prompt Avett to dig into his extensive collection of vinyl for a something different. Don’t be surprised to hear the Owens rarity “Reno Lament,” a jaunty honky-tonker about losing it all from the country legend’s 1970 album “I Wouldn’t Live in New York City” (the title track a tongue-possibly-in-cheek appreciation for fresh air, sunshine and neighborliness).
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s really kind of a forgotten record,” says Avett, who picked up the album on one of the many safaris he makes among the $1 bins in small-town flea markets. “A lot of beautiful, great recorded music has not made it onto iTunes or a digital format,” he says. “Yes, I have a lot of vinyl.”
On the road, Avett listens to music on a Crosley suitcase record player, a format that echoes his North Carolina childhood in a house filled with his mom’s 1950s rock ’n’ roll and his dad’s country crooners, including John Anderson, Don Williams and George Strait.
“There is something very calming about [vinyl], something tactile about the process of putting the record on the turntable, and the sound, which feels very real,” ¿he says. “Digital makes me kind of anxious.”
Avett’s taste in music runs toward the harder edges of modern rock ’n’ roll, from Nirvana to the North Carolina metal band Valient Thorr. “I’m a big fan of Caged Elephant,” he says, “and a huge fan of anything by Josh [Homme] of Queens of the Stone Age. That’s very strong, very forward-moving rock ’n’ roll.”
While Avett admits to being “more of a mountain kind of guy,” he says Tortuga’s beach setting offers some unique inspiration, and he’s excited by the eclecticism of the lineup, including their friend Grace Potter. “She’s one of the best singers I’ve ever met,” he says.
The environmental theme is also attractive for the Avetts, who have performed to raise money for causes such as food banks and help for battered women.
“We try to jump on it anytime we see an opportunity to be involved with something that’s so clearly good,” Avett says. “So much in life falls in a gray area.”
IF YOU GO
The Avett Brothers perform 4:30-5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Tortuga Music Festival on Fort Lauderdale beach. Info: TortugaMusicFestival.com.
Photo: Grammy.comCopyright © 2015, South Florida