Steady as she goes on AOR eighth outing
Over the course of their career, the Dave Matthews Band have grown into a multi-million selling musical monolith. In view of their longevity and success it’s little surprise that their latest album sees them continue to occupy the stylistic middle-ground. Still, they’re an unusual proposition. Given that the band’s members are drawn from a variety of backgrounds – classical, folk, soul, rock – you’d expect their music to be full of spiky idiosyncrasies. Yet most of the vaguely dangerous edges have been finessed in favour of a more even finish.
Their first album since the death of saxophonist and founding member LeRoi Moore [the GrooGrux King himself], Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King is something of a tasting banquet, offering myriad morsels of this and that, but ultimately leaving you feeling dissatisfied. And certain items are definitely not to our taste; be it the jazzy, wine bar interludes on ‘Funny The Way It Is’, saxophone that intrudes on ‘Hands Of God’ like an unwanted wedding guest, or the eco-warrior posturing of ‘Dive In’.
However, there are redeeming features. The playing throughout is mercilessly proficient and the vocals undoubtedly impassioned. Plus, there’s an enjoyable triple-track whammy in the middle: ‘Squirm’ with its ever-swelling sense of drama, ‘Alligator Pie’, a good ole boy barnstormer fit to grace Deliverance, and ‘Seven’, a song that sweats lust from every pore. If only there was more of this and less of the mawkish balladeering of ‘You And Me’, then we’d have something truly worthy of celebration.
Key Track: ‘Alligator Pie’
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