Fewer jams, same good times on Matthews' solo album

by Vivian Chung | 10/15/03 5:00am

Daveheads, you can rest easy. Dave Matthews' first solo album "Some Devil" isn't all the doom and gloom it's being built up to be. If you're expecting Peter, Paul and Mary, then don't buy the album; it's not exactly Disney soundtrack material. However, "Some Devil" is by no means depressing; the album is a mix of energetic, thoughtful and emotional raw harmony.

To call it a solo album is a little misleading. He does have many notable guests, including Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, frequent collaborator Tim Reynolds and the Seattle Symphony. Collaborations like these, coupled with Matthews' songcraft makes "Some Devil" worthwhile.

"Dodo" is a good example of Matthews' creative genius. The song features the Dirty Dozen Brass band, plus Anastasio and Reynolds on guitar. This blend results in a comforting song with spontaneous-sounding lyrics about the world being a pancake and dodo birds. Matthews seems to want to challenge his audience to think outside of the ordinary, as he sings "Why would you play by the rules."

"So Damn Lucky" starts with energetic strums of acoustic guitars, with the Seattle Music Group also contributing strings and horns. The melody is simple, yet powerful and catchy. The lyrics seem to indicate Matthews' feeling of breaking into new ground: "Oh my God/Wait and see/ What will become of me."

There are two versions of "Gravedigger" on the album:one with Matthews and a band and one with just the man on acoustic guitar with strings. In the first version, both Reynolds and Anastasio play brilliant electric guitar as accompaniment. Some have labeled the song as the best example of Matthews depressive whiney tracks. While the song is about death -- "Gravedigger/when you dig my grave/could you make it shallow/so that I can feel the rain" -- it is neither depressive nor whiney. Instead it is filled with exciting raw emotion, impressive guitar riffs and strong strings accompaniment and percussion.

Most of the tracks on the album are fantastic, but this is not a flawless album. There are a couple tracks worth skipping. Most of the songs are around five minutes long, so whereas a bad song on another album would have lasted two to three minutes, it takes twice the time to get through one here. "An'Another Thing" is one of those songs where you have to turn your speakers to full blast, yet strain your ears to hear anything at all. While Matthews proves that he can sing as a soprano if he wants to, I'd rather he sound less like ghost wailing.

For those expecting a Dave Matthews Band album, keep in mind this isn't Dave Matthews Band. You will not find the usual loud cheery rock. Matthews has allowed himself to explore the realm outside that of usual DMB jams. The result is a more mellow and sincere mix of tracks without the usual catchy hook of DMB songs. "Some Devil" is a quality buy for anyone who wants to listen to decent easy rock and an awesome purchase for anyone who wants to have a good time.