The ever popular Dave Matthews Band is back in a big way with “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King.” It’s a much welcomed return from a creative group of musicians who make some pretty impressive music. This album is completely dedicated to the memory of the band’s late saxophonist LeRoi Moore, and it seems as the death of their friend motivated the band to create some really good songs.
Most people I know who are fans of Dave Matthews Band generally were exposed and began enjoying the band with their 1998 release “Before These Crowded Streets.” The three subsequent releases, although well-reviewed and well-received by fans and critics alike, all seemed to leave something on the table. The band wasn’t neglecting their fans and going in a completely new direction, they just seemed to be experimenting with different sounds and themes, as the band is incredibly politically active with a strong voice.
With “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King,” instead of heading back to the proverbial drawing board, they sort of retrace their footsteps left by the 1998 album, all while using the death of their fellow bandmember not only as motivation but in spirit as well, as Moore appears posthumously on a number of tracks.
The album starts with an instrumental track, “Grux,” which is simply a drum beat and saxophone duet, which is layered contextually knowing that this particular saxophone is being played by the late LeRoi Moore, it’s tough to not get goosebumps. It’s a haunting tribute.
The second song, “Shake Me Like a Monkey,” is amazingly catchy and upbeat, and really sounds like the DMB everyone probably knows. It’s sort of got a big band feel-good attitude to it, and it’s fantastic for driving around with the windows down. I found myself air drumming the streets of Terre Haute much to the confusion of everyone else on the road.
The first single, “Funny the Way it Is,” is a little bit slower than the previous song, but again sounds like the DMB people know and love. It has the lyrical power that Matthews is known to provide. Each instrument adds a new character to the song while producing a strong melody and helps to create an overall enjoyable tune.
As the album progresses, it flows back and forth between upbeat, fun songs to slower songs. It’s definitely a solid album with many themes being experimented with and listening to the album at first, it’s tough to predict if the next song is going to be upbeat big band DMB, or orchestral, thinking man’s DMB. It’s a journey that’s both interesting and psychological, as to me it sort of parallels real life. There is an unpredictability to it, and it’s enjoyable.
“Lying in the Hands of God” doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before from DMB. It’s slow and introspective, and the vocals of Dave sound like nothing I’ve heard before. It’s a pretty solid effort into unfamiliar waters.
Fans will love this album, and it’s easy to like it. It’s well-produced, and the musicians are more than capable of engaging a listener for the duration of an album.
They’ve returned, and a very welcomed return it is. This is a band who plays for the music, and to me they’ve never lost their heart and soul. Their brand of music is enjoyable and for the most part, upbeat and fun. When they venture into their slower brand of music, they run the risk of alienating some casual fans.
The artwork for the album is all from Dave himself, and it might be my favorite artwork from any DMB album. After the incredibly simple artwork from “Stand Up”, that was almost too simple, It feels like this actually accompanies the music that it packages and it’s colorful and interesting, and the fact that Dave himself created it is actually really cool.
- Grux (+)
- Shake Me Like a Monkey (+)
- Funny the Way It Is
- Lying In The Hands of God (+)
- Why I Am (+)
- Dive In
- Spaceman (+)
- Alligator Pie (+)
- Time Bomb
- Baby Blue (+)
- You and Me
After what I would describe as a somewhat lackluster release 4 years ago (“Stand Up”), it’s nice to see Dave and the boys back in their winning form. They’ve not only given fans a good album to listen to this summer and beyond, but most importantly they’ve given a tribute to their friend that is truly something to be proud of.
- Dave’s Artwork
- The saxophone tracks from LeRoi
- The general catchiness of most songs
- Great album title
- They don’t go super morose trying to honor their friend
- Album isn’t exactly anything new in terms of sound or layout
- Most songs could be thrown into other DMB albums and fit right in
- I was puzzled at some of the choices made in terms of tracklisting. It seems some changes could have been made to make the album flow just a little better
Score: 7/10 (Good)