August at the Ark
been equally influential; the two both come from the Smoky Mountain foothills east of Knoxville. The Avett Brothers, whose latest album is called Emotionalism, embrace the unabashed feeling of country, discarding the conventions of the form in favor of Beatlesque harmonies and highly distinctive lyric conceptions but keeping the romantic content; their "Swept Away" is a straightforward love song that their alternative-rock counterparts could never get away with. Most of the tunes on the Forge Mountain Diggers' debut album come from the same stock of string-band music that the folk revivalists rediscovered in the 1960s.
All these musicians combine country and city in new ways. The Forge Mountain Diggers give old-time tunes a markedly brittle edge on disc, and their live show is said to have the insistent energy of punk. The Avett Brothers are splendidly ambitious as songwriters, with big rock conceptions that sometimes switch styles in the middle of a song: "Pretty Girl from Chile," one of a "Pretty Girl" series stretching over multiple albums, is full of unexpected twists - including an answering machine message from the titular pretty girl. Robinella, something like her fellow southerner Madeleine Peyroux, has broadened her meditative Appalachian jazz on her latest release, Solace for the Lonely, to include bits of psychedelia and funk from the 1960s and 1970s.