Solo Devil: Dave is Dave with another band
Dave Matthews is some devil. Or perhaps just devilish. He's been quoted as saying the collection of songs that constitute his debut solo album "didn't fit" with his band.
Hmm. Any of the 14 tracks on Some Devil would fit within the context of DMB. It's refreshing to hear Matthews work with other musicians Trey Anastasio, Tim Reynolds, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, etc. But while the album is receiving some accolades, many critics don't consider it the distinct or unusual product one would expect from a solo project.
"It's no surprise," says veteran New York freelancer Nick Catucci, who writes for the Village Voice, Blender, and Spin. "I think he has to get outside the constraints [of his band]." A million seller? Yes, says Catucci, but a musical disappointment nonetheless.
Waldo Jaquith, reporter/editor at Nancies.org agrees that it's bound to succeed. "In all," he writes, "Some Devil manages to be smooth without being slick, understated without sacrificing strength, sweet without being syrupy. What Everyday did with unbridled enthusiasm, Some Devil does with confident perfectionism. Should Dave Matthews Band decide to perform these songs next time they tour, they will no doubt be received with great enthusiasm."
The CD opens with the somewhat upbeat "Do Do," slips into the more melancholy "So Damn Lucky," and "Gravedigger" (the current single and video), and then becomes classic Matthews– which is to say, deals with his typical themes of love, loss, and the past.
Artistically, with Steve Harris as producer, the album resembles the somewhat reviled Everyday more than anything else Matthews and his band have produced. There are singles here. The longest song, "An' Another Thing," a retooled version of the previously released "Another Thing," clocks in at 5:29 minutes.
"Gravedigger" appears twice, once with full accompaniment and then, as the last song, acoustically. The album makes you think "Busted Stuff Part II," not "Here's something new and different."
As expected, "Gravedigger," the first single from the album, is receiving significant airplay. As WNRN's Mike Friend says, it's not a rocker, but it's classic Matthews.
Some Devil is not garage band rock. If anything, it's Matthews doing what he does best: sometimes Beatle-esque, more often infused with Matthews' familiar guitar and vocal stylings. Still an interesting and compelling recording especially without the diversions (worthy as they are) of Boyd Tinsley's violin, the honking sax of LeRoi Moore, and the jazz inflections of Carter Beauford the record is a sign of Matthews' maturity beyond DMB.
The Washington Post sums up Some Devil as "inoffensive," a damning-with-faint praise often lobbed at the DMB by the unfaithful. Nonetheless, the faithful are many, and the album is expected to go gold, if not platinum.
Dave's label, RCA, has high hopes for gaining the #1 slot on the charts. However, on the same day as Some Devil's release, hip-hop band Outkast released its latest album, Speakerboxxx: The Love Below.
"We're only hearing good numbers," says RCA spokesperson Meredith Israel. "We think the big competition is going to be Outkast. We're crossing our fingers."
PHOTO BY BARNABY DRAPER