Sunday, July 05, 2009

A Big Shot Of Whiskey


and a half

This week I've been playing Dave Matthews Band's recent release Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King after doing that post about their albums. Listening to all that DMB put me in the mood to hear some new stuff from them. The album is dedicated and features playing from their late saxophonist, LeRoi Moore, who is the Groogrux King that's being referenced in the title from what I understand. So there's definite emotional power in the record, but how does it sound?

After spending much of the 21st Century trying to augment their sound with producers, Big Whiskey is the most natural DMB release in some time. Not to say it wasn't produced, Rob Cavillo (Green Day) boosts the punch of the their grooves to hit harder than normal. The virtuoso instrumentation and synergistic jams are well represented, the band seems at their loosest and vibrant point in the recorded work since 1998. Understandably, the songs have to do with death, mourning and questioning why life is the way it is. What's surprising is instead of striking a depressing tone like The Lillywhite Sessions, the vibe moves between melancholy and bright.

And Matthew's delivers some of his hookiest material in a while. For me the highlight is the rambunctious "Why I Am" with it's fast paced beat and catchy slowed down chorus. The lead single "Funny The Way It Is" caught on with me more this week, the lyrics about somebody going hungry while someone else is going out to eat and how someones heartbreak can be someone elses favorite song rung true. "Alligator Pie" highlight's the group's musical interplay while "You and Me" brings the disc to a light close.

Guitarist Tim Reynolds has a good measure of presence on this album, adding some bristling solos to compete with the horns and violins in the DMB arsenal. The band's performance is strong, so strong that even lifting the Cameo "Word Up" riff in "Shake Like A Monkey" comes across as inventive.

Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King is a very good Dave Matthews Band disc, the material is up to par with some highlights and their performance is spot on. For me, this is their best album since Under The Table And Dreaming, the band sounds as sharp as ever. It is sad that a band member has passed away, presenting an album this strong featuring the sax playing at the beginning and end of the disc provides a good memoriam to their fallen comrade.

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