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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 The band lost its sax­o­phone play­er, LeRoi Moore, (who has since been replaced by Jeff Cof­fin, from Béla Fleck and the Fleck­tones) to com­pli­ca­tions after an ATV acci­dent dur­ing ear­ly pro­duc­tion in August, 2008, and the album is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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