Friday, June 5, 2009

dave matthews band "big whiskey and the groogrux king" review

i haven't been this into the dave matthew (jam) band in years! "big whiskey and the groogrux king," the group's seventh studio album, was released on tuesday. but the songs were previewed live, in a broadcast of their beacon theatre concert monday night! the dmb put on a great show, and it contributed to my decision to buy the album the next morning. an excellent marketing strategy - the concert broadcast was followed up with a week-long series of dmb specials on the fuse channel (including the the 4 part "making of" the album documentary).

the "making of" documentary, "scenes from big whiskey" was included in the deluxe (cd/dvd) edition of "big whiskey." i haven't sat down to watch it yet, but i've been listening to the album on and off all week (on top of the concert monday night). the album's title and artwork have an interesting story to tell. during the sessions for "big whiskey" the band lost one of its founding members, leroi moore, when he died in an off-road driving accident on his farm last august. his nickname, grux, suddenly found its way into to title.

not only did the band give over the title in honor of their band mate, but matthews himself drew the cover art! he transformed the memory of his friend into an image of moore (or more accurately, his head) as a mardi gras float. the album kicks off with a short instrumental (sax driven, of course) entitled "grux" - in his honor. but enough about moore, the album isn't a eulogy; it's not a long draw out dirge. instead, while paying their respects, the surviving members honor his memory by playing some good solid music!

i found selection incredibly eclectic - but it rocked. "funny how it is" took me back 20+ years to, occasional grateful dead keyboardist, bruce hornsy and the range's "the way it is!" while i doubt there was any conscious similarity, the two songs struck familiar chords and images. another association that struck me, "squirm" (easily my favorite track on the album) could have come right off the mid-90's jimmy page/robert plant collaboration, "no quarter" - the near eastern influences that punctuate the brooding lyrics are dead on.

other songs that work; "why i am," "spaceman," "seven,"and "alligator" - all rock. the banjo driven "alligator" had its own special intro monday night. dave started it with bit about how his daughter stella asked him, "daddy, when are you going to write a song about me?" she asked that innocent question because of how many times the word "grace" found its way into her dad's songs (which is the name of her sister)! in another "banjo" coincidence, the muscian that filled in for moore, jeff coffin (seriously), arrived from bela fleck's flecktones!

here's the full track list:

shake me like a monkey
funny the way it is
lying in the hands of god
why i am
dive in
alligator pie
time bomb
baby blue
you & me

it was definitely worth the wait since 2005's "stand up" - check it out!

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