Some Devil

Dave Matthews

RCA Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The music made by Dave Matthews and his sometimes cohorts in the Dave Matthews Band has been called a lot of things - at their best, dynamic, richly textured, eclectic; at their worst, unstructured, meandering, self-indulgent. But, boring?

Not likely.

Which is why it's such a shock to find that this disc, Matthews' first solo album of new studio material, is flat-out boring.

For his first true solo album, Matthews jettisons the entire DMB and brings in a fresh crew. Sure, why not? Solo albums are an opportunity to try something different. And Matthews pulls in quality players, too: Trey Anatasio (Phish) on guitar, Tony Hall (Neville Brothers, Bob Dylan) on bass, Brady Blade (Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris) on drums, plus frequent musical co-conspirator Tim Reynolds on guitar. The grooves, as you might expect, are confident and the vibe relaxed.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But therein lies the problem - it's too relaxed; there's no direction. This may be the most aimless album Dave Matthews has ever recorded, and without the exotic instrumentation of the standard DMB lineup (acoustic guitar-sax-violin-bass-drums), the music that emerges is dismayingly pedestrian.

Lyrically, Matthews seems stuck as deep as ever in the "love and death" rut he's occupied for much of his career. For all the gloom of its lyrics, the DMB's last album Busted Stuff does effectively capture the band's terrific energy and versatility. By contrast, Some Devil is languorous and depressed to the point where the songs blend together like soup, a thin, listless broth without the spice of Leroi Moore's bleating horns and Boyd Tinsley's eerie violin.

Tracks like "So Damn Lucky" and "Trouble" tease with pleasant melodies, but fail to go anywhere, simply repeating themselves into monotony. Others like "Save Me" add some bite to the guitar and complexity to the rhythm track, but still feel one-dimensional compared to a typical DMB arrangement.

Interestingly, the best moments on this album lie in the quieter corners, where Matthews strips things down even farther. The title track is a standout, an artful self-examination sung with delicate grace over only Matthews' own gentle, precise picking on an electric guitar. Notable also are the meditative, Daniel Lanois-ish "Grey Blue Eyes," and the pretty love song "Baby."

These few bright spots can't make up, though, for train wrecks like the maudlin, tiresome "Gravedigger," where Matthews offers up not one but two versions of a song he's already written a half-dozen times over the last decade. (The dude has a serious fixation with his own grave, lying in it, the people digging it, the rain falling on it, etc., etc. Get some help, Dave. Seriously.)

This album suggests a conclusion sure to be the subject of hot debate in DMB fan circles - it's entirely possible that the weakest link in the Dave Matthews Band may be Dave Matthews himself. Absent the dynamics of a DMB arrangement, these songs, with a handful of exceptions, fail to ignite. DM should run, not walk, back to the B.

Rating: C-

User Rating: C


Yawn. (The album, not the review...).

© 2003 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.