Gregg’s Album of the Year

Dave Matthews Band With Blu-ray Brian yet to reveal his choice for ‘album of the year,’ I have landed on my decision after a review of the 2009 releases.  While it’s no small task to cover them all, and no, I’m not going to act like I listened to every CD that came out this year, it is always a difficult but fun category to cover.  How can you compare a classical piece to a country tune?  Hip-hop to metal?  The truth is, you really can’t, but the category calls for one record to stand above all others so that is what will be delivered. 

After listening to an array of music over the last 12 months, Dave Matthews Band’s Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King takes the cake as my 2009 Album of the Year.  What the band often referred to as what they felt was their most cohesive work, Big Whiskey wasn’t just a triumphant assembly of sound, but more so a comeback album.  After three consecutive disappointing releases, two of which had some questioning where the band’s creativity went (Everyday and Stand Up), they came back with a bang this year, though their success was at a cost.

Dave Matthew 

During the early stages of work on the album, the band lost accomplished reedist Leroi Moore who passed away from injuries suffered in an ATV accident in the summer of 2008.  They didn’t just lose a master sax player.  They lost someone who was incredibly skilled in the ways of the clarinet and tin whistle as well, but more importantly, they lost a friend.  Nevertheless, the band persevered and brought in the aid of reedist Jeff Coffin from Bela Fleck & the Flecktones.  Also joining the fray on the album was guitarist Tim Reynolds and trumpeter Rashawn Ross. 

The album’s title is a tip of the hat to Moore as he shared the nickname ‘Groogrux’ with a few of the other band mates.  According to a source on Wikipedia, ‘Big Whiskey’ comes from a drunken fellow that Dave Matthews and bass guitarist Stephane Lessard encountered on the streets of New Orleans.  After corralling a few dollars, the man went on his merry way to buy himself ‘a big whiskey.’  You’ll notice the album’s cover art, courtesy of Dave Matthews, features a Mardi Gras-esque scene with the happy mug of Leroi Moore at the heart of the celebration. 

The Dave Matthews Band

The collage of talent gelled with what seemed like ease as Big Whiskey brought us 13 tracks including an intro piece titled Grux, a nickname tribute to the band’s fallen comrade.  This sax number builds a slow intensity which is unleashed in track 2’s Shake Me Like a Monkey; the one song that Dave Matthews admittedly had a fair amount of trouble with, happens to be the fastest and and arguably most explosive tune on the album.  You’ll find that the album carries a variety of sounds and emotion, such as the troublesome times revealed in Alligator Pie, the contemplative irony of Funny the Way It Is and the romantic escape of You & Me, just to name a few.  Every song on the recording tells a story, many in the traditionally cryptic, abstract lyrics common in Matthews’ detailed songwriting. 

While I disagree with the band in their claim that this is their best work, it is indeed a solid recording with a smorgasbord of audible flavor.  My lone complaint with the album is its second-to-last track, Baby Blue.  The song bears an incredible similarity to another Dave Matthews tune, Sister.  The music seemed to remain the same in this re-badged song while the lyrics were overhauled.  It just struck me as a surprise due to the copying of one’s own work.  Single tune aside, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King is a fun ride that comes out of the gate on fire and ends with a beautiful conclusion that leaves you on cloud 9.  This album was a much-needed breath of fresh air for both the band as well as the overly produced music industry.  The only thing better than hearing the songs off this album is hearing them live.  


Bring home the CD of the year today! 





Comments are currently closed.