Dave Matthews Band "Away From the World"

Dave Matthews Band reunite with the producer of their first 3 album for an exploration of love's manifestations

It’s not a new idea to suggest that we are born alone and will leave this life alone, nor is it original to describe our bodies as vessels that contain our spirits – our true selves. The title for the 8th studio album from The Dave Matthews band, as well as the artwork, is derived from this concept. The cover depicts nine characters, separated by boxes, in differing emotional states. Love in its many manifestations is the element that breaks down the walls that separate us. As I said, no new ideas here, but the topic is rich enough to allow for infinite avenues of exploration.

Certainly Matthews and his band have reason to ponder deep topics. In 2008 they lost founding member LeRoi Moore, an event that profoundly affected the group's attitude about their musical direction. Their last album, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, was a New Orlean’s influenced celebratory response to Moore’s life. For their latest release the band peddles back to their beginnings. Steve Lillywhite, the producer of DMB’s first 3 albums, the very ones that established the band’s hit sound, is back to produce. This album refocuses the band on the balance of rockers and ballads that established their career.

Away From the World opens with “Broken Things.” You can’t miss the step back on this track as it sounds like a lost song from Under the Table and Dreaming. The only thing missing from the arrangement is Moore’s distinctive saxophone. “Belly Belly Nice” is a funky tune about sex. It isn’t too often that we find Davey in such an openly randy mood. Nice to know middle aged guys can still get it on – heck maybe they’ll make a few extra bucks on a Viagra commercial! Speaking of middle-age, clearly that is on Matthews mind. “Funny how time slips away/lookin’ at the cracks creeping across my face/I remember the little kid livin’ in here/he’ll be livin’ here probably till I’m dead” he sings in the opening lines of “Riff” a song that serves as the center piece for the album. The struggle to connect with others is the theme here as well as throughout the release. The track begins as a quiet ballad but builds to an emotional climax.

Love ballads have always been a staple of this band and Matthews is at his best as a songwriter when writing on this topic. “Sweet” begins with just Matthews’ vocals and a ukulele. Again, “Belly Full” is Matthews’ voice accompanied only by acoustic guitar. The quiet tracks are interspersed by both mid-tempo and rockers. “Gaucho” plays with syncopated rhythms while “Rooftop” plays up a large horn section.Away From the World ends with “Drunken Soldier” a long jam that abruptly veers away from a rambling opening to focus on each band member’s talents, from Boyd Tinsley’s searing violin to Matthews’ excellent guitar work, to drummer Carter Beauford and bassist Stefan Lessard’s consistent leadership on rhythm.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Host)