It’s been three years since the release of Matthew’s “Big Whiskey and the GrooGux King” and it could be said that a lot was expected of him and his crew when the long awaited “Away from the World” finally hit the record stores. The 2009 album brought to us a pile of feel good, lively tracks that showed the full and heavy sound that the many layers of the Dave Matthews Band can put out there. The question was; can they mix that up with more subtle tracks and still deliver? The answer is, yes they certainly can.
Saxophones and trumpets, violins and guitars, the Dave Matthews Band has an extremely colorful blend of instruments and one of the most impressive features of the “Away from the World” is how the full potential of all these instruments is explored both on their own and as a group. In tracks such as “Belly Belly Nice”, one of the tighter and funkier tracks, we can appreciate the powerful sound that this little big band are able to produce at the same time as hearing the talents of the individuals such as Coffin and Tinsley’s improvisation skills on sax and violin. The whole album continues in this manner, mixing up so many styles but maintaining a stunning sound. “If Only”, “Rooftop” and “Belly Full” are three love sick tracks that follow each other, but despite a similar topic being explored lyrically they totally contrast musically, the theme actually never gets boring. We are taken through Dave’s lonely state of mind within both laid back acoustic sounds and heavier rock sounds, reflecting the mixture of emotions that love sickness brings. It’s not just the music in which Matthew’s has delivered though; the lyrics as usual have not failed to impress.
As well as giving us a fair few love themed tracks which always appeal to a crowd, themes such as the world’s inequality are explored with iconic lyrics that almost become anthem like. In songs such as “Gaucho” the repeated line; “We gotta go much more than believe if we really wanna change things” is simple yet incredibly meaningful, waking us up to the mess of the world, but that we “could do anything under the stars” if we really tried. This follows the equally inspiring lyrics of “Mercy” which again reminds us that we have the power to change things that are wrong.
Lyrically and musically, this is a fantastic work by Matthews, he really expresses the spectrum of genres there are to draw us in. The range and texture of all the instruments that make up the Dave Matthews Band have been much more engaged with and the talents of Rashawn Ross, Jeff Coffin and Boyd Tinsley come to light across various improvised solos that give the album a spark of talented insanity. A particularly iconic track that highlights each and every individual instrumentalist is the final track “Drunken Soldier” which has a long instrumental section before any lyrics come in. Here we can appreciate the all the talents including the work of bassist Stefan Lessard and guitarist Tim Reynolds and of course Dave himself, who stuns us on his guitar as well as in his vocal ability. Let’s not forget Carter Beuford of course, exquisitely keeping the album moving with some flawlessly tight drumming.
It’s hard to say where the Dave Matthews band could take us next after this immaculate work, but what I think what we can say is that we’ll eagerly be on the edge of our seats waiting for yet another pile of surprises, hopefully as impressive as “Away from the World”.