Plumbiferous Media

Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King – Dave Matthews Band

Jun 4th 2009
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Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King - Dave Matthews BandDave Matthews Band
Big Whisky & The Groogrux King
Score: 92

The Dave Matthews Band released its newest album on the second, making Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King their first LP since 2005. The band lost its saxophone player, LeRoi Moore, (who has since been replaced by Jeff Coffin, from Béla Fleck and the Flecktones) to complications after an ATV accident during early production in August, 2008, and the album is partially dedicated to him through its name: Moore’s nickname was GrooGrux King. But aside from the story accompanying it, the album itself is simply excellent.

The Dave Matthews Band is at its best in dense, upbeat sections, and Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King has plenty. “Shake Me Like a Monkey” is a perfect example: the horns and drums open the track, and it quickly shifts into a complex drum section with guitar riffs running counter to the vocals. Soon the horn joins again, adding an extra dimension to the track. What becomes incredibly apparent through the track though, is the band’s ability to pass effortlessly through sharp transitions; while the vocals frequently switch tone and lyric sections, the drum line keeps the track from becoming jarring. But the best example of incredible instrumentals is the transition section which occurs around minutes 1:50 and 4:00 of “Funny the Way It Is,” where the guitar suddenly switches to an absolutely amazing near-unison with Matthews’s voice. The band has obviously paid extremely close attention to the minute details, and it pays off.

After the excellent “Grux,” Matthews’s vocals come in with the strength we’d expect from his earlier work. Throughout GrooGrux King, the vocals are always deep and engaging in a way which makes the music as a whole incredibly rewarding. The combination of emotionality and energy pervading the album allows for a remarkable range of vocal delivery. From the sharp delivery of “Alligator Pie” to the accented delivery of “Funny the Way It Is,” Matthews’s creativity, as well as skilled use of a variety of effects, creates diversity across the album. At no point on the album does Matthews become irritating to listen to – his voice keeps the same laudable qualities without becoming boring or repetitive.

The lyrics of GrooGrux King are well-suited to Matthews’s vocals in their depth and energy. The quality of the lyrical content of the album is immediately clear from “Shake Me Like a Monkey,” and only matures as the album continues. Combined with an amazing execution, Matthews’s intonation of lines like “I’ll be right here / Lying in the hands of God” takes the step from well-done to inspired. The expertly executed combination of music and vocals further accentuates each line to a degree of perfection. Furthermore, the album is filled with gems like “I grew drunk on water turned into wine / Till I was slave and master at the same damn time.” Altogether, Groogrux King never disappoints lyrically.

Sadly, there are some weak points to the album. After the extremely repetitive “Why I Am,” Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King enters a slower section that, while still good, does not carry the same amount of power that accompanied the beginning of the album. The problem is caused not only by the section being slower, as “Grux,” “Lying in the Hands of God,” and “Time Bomb” are all quite strong, but the repetitiveness that exists and actually supports the earlier tracks, when combined with the laid-back feel, makes the album begin to drag. Luckily, the album quickly picks up again with “Alligator Pie” and “Seven,” good examples of the diversity that Dave Matthews Band can provide, sounding nothing like any of the preceding tracks.

Even with its few weak sections, it is quite refreshing to listen to an album as beautifully crafted as Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King. While Dave Matthews Band has been noted previously for their excellent albums, Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King goes above and beyond almost everything else they have ever done; Dave Matthews himself was quoted as saying that if someone were to listen to only one of his albums, he would recommend GrooGrux King. All in all, Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King is an amazing album and quite deserving of its rating.

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