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Tuesday Tunes: Spotlight on Dave Matthews Band

[I'm on with my rock 'n' roll pal Kaedy Kiely at 97.1 The River every Wednesday at 6:50 and 7:50 a.m. to talk about the latest rock news. Tune in to see what's up!]

AFTW-Cover-iTunes-348x348Just because the Dave Matthews Band re-enlisted Steve Lillywhite to produce its eighth studio album doesn’t mean the band is trying to cling to its oddly creative ‘90s period with the producer.

Instead, “Away from the World” unwraps a mature DMB – musically, lyrically and vocally in terms of its frontman, who mercifully has all but ditched the annoying habit of singing through clenched teeth.

“Away” is the Charlottesville-Seattle-based band’s first recording since 2009’s “Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King,” an album understandably written in the shadows of the death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore. It’s also their first since taking 2011 off from touring and clearly, the break from the road benefited them in the studio.

While “Broken Things” launches the record with burps of brass and the slicker pop feel of more recent DMB recordings and “Belly Belly Nice” funks things up with cheeky lyrics, much of the album zigs and zags with shifting tempos, deft mixes of acoustic dips and swelling musical peaks.

Drummer Carter Beauford remains the band’s musical backbone, as he guides the see-sawing “Sweet” — which Matthews sings mostly in his pleasant upper range – and helps control the musical chaos of “Snow Outside.”

That track and the almost 10-minute “Drunken Soldier” close the album, and both are hallmarks of a veteran band that will never conform, yet has settled comfortably into the groove of these 11 songs.

“Soldier” starts softly before escalating into a mishmash of flamenco guitar, bursts of electric guitar and brass (handled by Jeff Coffin and Rashawn Ross). It feels as if something big is about to commence, like, perhaps, a bull fight, but then Boyd Tinsley’s violin saws the song down into a lullaby as Matthews reminds us, “We all grow up and someday we’ll say goodbye.”

Elsewhere on the record, a more emotionally established Matthews is heard convincingly pleading on “The Riff,” while “Gaucho” is another DMB combo special constructed with a sweet bridge and a haunting chorus of “please wake up” followed by chanting children – all to tell the band’s message of hope.

“Don’t waste time trying to be something you’re not,” Matthews sings on “Drunken Solider” – advice that this band has always taken to heart.

Also available Tuesday:

  • The Avett Brothers, “The Carpenter,” produced by Rick Rubin. Expect to hear some of these new tunes when the band plays Music Midtown next week.

 

  • ZZ Top, “La Futura,”  the first studio album in nine years from the Texas trio, which has been together for an impressive 43 years.

 

  • Bob Dylan, “Tempest,” the 35th studio album from the folk-rock poet, who has dispelled claims that this is his final album. Rumors sprouted because of the similarities in title to Shakespeare’s final work, “The Tempest.”

 

  • Chris Robinson Brotherhood, “The Magic Door,” the second studio album from the band, released a mere three months after its debut, “Big Moon Ritual.”

 

  • David Byrne & St. Vincent, “Love This Giant,” the chamber pop-art rock collaboration from the genius of Byrne and quirky former Polyphonic Spree member otherwise known as Annie Clark.

 

  • DMX, “Undisputed,” the oft-delayed latest from the gruff-voiced rapper with production from Swiss Beatz and a name familiar to Atlanta artists, J.R. Rotem.

 

  • Patterson Hood, “Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance,” the third solo album from the co-founder of Athens’ Drive-By Truckers, featuring appearances from DBT mates Mike Cooley, Jay Gonzalez, Brad Morgan and John Neff.

 

  • Pet Shop Boys, “Elysium,” from the veteran British synth-pop duo who helped close out the London Olympics. The album was recorded in Los Angeles – a first for them.

 

  • Little Big Town, “Tornado,” the band’s fifth album, spurred by the hit single, “Pontoon.”

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

5 comments Add your comment

C from Marietta

September 11th, 2012
10:10 am

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

macky-paige

September 11th, 2012
5:15 pm

So excited that the album it out! I am loving Mercy and can’t wait to hear the rest of the tracks! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VT_d2yjkUaY

Christina

September 13th, 2012
12:25 pm

I love Mercy! I listen to it while I am studying, on my way to school, and before bed! I can’t wait to follow them on tour again! I <3 DMB

Alex

September 16th, 2012
7:38 pm

Thought the feel of this album was really on point. Very chill. Very mellow. I watched the video for Mercy as well. Concept videos like that are always a refreshing pace from the typical music video.