I’ve gone both ways on Dave Matthews Band. While I was in high school they became the “it” band and because I was against all things “it” I abstained from much ado about Dave. Then college hit and I started listening to them again (I got Under the Table and Dreaming in like 7th or 8th grade) with a vengeance, even going so far as to drive 3 hours to see them live. I picked up everything I could get my hands on and had all sorts of live and rare cuts and the like. I even got some bumper stickers for my car, some Frisbees for the park, and a poster for my room. And then things just sorta fizzled out between Dave and me. It wasn’t them, I guess I just got to the point where there were only so many live albums I could buy and listen to. Their studio albums were good (Everyday, Busted Stuff, and the unreleased Lillywhite Sessions [which are owned by everyone I know…]) but they failed to capture me like Crash had. And while I enjoyed Stand Up a lot, it was in the same category as the others and I actually scrapped a bumper sticker off my car after it failed to make me lose my mind. But I’d still consider myself a fan, just not an uber-fan anymore. So all that to say, this is the perspective I bring to the newest offering by Dave Matthews Band, their first studio album in four years.
The album opens with Grux, a mournful saxophone track that reminds anyone that knows that LeRoi Moore, DMB’s saxophone player passed away and is no longer present for this release. But to hear Dave and the band talk, it was LeRoi’s death that really pushed them, both personally and musically to make a big and special album. And I’d say they’ve succeeded in doing so. Big Whiskey comes across as a complete work that is reminiscent of Crash and Before These Crowded Streets. It has highs and lows, layers and jams, and a philosophical tone that reflects on some of the more random seeming events of life and death itself.
The first single Funny The Way It Is is a readily accessible song that will sound instantly familiar to any Dave fan. Why I Am draws the listener in and almost forces them to tap their toes and nod their head. It’s a throwback to the fun anthems found on Crash. And then You And Me ends the album on an optimistic note in a sweeping and soaring song that extols love and the invincibility that it seems to bring.
Overall, I think that this is Dave Matthews Band’s most complete album in quite some time. It flows together, runs in and out of gravity and whimsy and does what all good albums should, namely draw the listener in and make them apart of the story. I’m pleased with their work and I think most Dave fans will be too. And if you are reticent to make a purchase on my recommendation alone, check out Spinner.com here where you can stream the whole album for free and give it a try. I think you’ll like it.