Saturday, November 01, 2003


Album Review: Dave Matthews "Some Devil"

I've liked Dave Matthews and his band ever since the days of "What Would You Say?," so I was intrigued by the potential of a Dave Matthews solo album. I expected a lot of guitar work (and got it), insightful, fun, and sometimes deep and disturbing lyrics (got that too) and amazing vocals by Dave. Overall, this album delivers on my expectations, but also gave me a few surprises. Most of all, it brought me some beautiful musical moments that are among the best Dave has done yet in his career, I believe.

I bought this album on the spur of the moment one night. I had considered buying it, but I wasn't sure if I was going to or not. One night I was buying a new pair of headphones and decided to just buy the album. I'm glad I did.
1) Dodo

This song starts out softly, like a dream. Then, guest star Trey Anastatio's guitar kicks in, and Tim Reynold's electric gives the hook. This is a relaxing, free, grooving tune that kicks off "Some Devil" on a positive note. Dave uses light, dreamy vocals here, like he does on many DMB songs. In fact, "Dodo" sounds a lot like a DMB song, in my opinion. The refrain of "who did, you did, you" works well and has a hypnotic quality to it, much like Dave's singing. Another special guest is the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which adds some kicking horns on the track. Overall, a very dreamy, light, hypnotic song and one of my favorites on the album.

2) So Damn Lucky

Basically, this is a song about a car crash. In listening to the lyrics, I'm not sure if the car was actually crashed or if it was almost crashed. Compared to the lyrical content (about the moment before the potential crash), the music is very light and carefree with jingly guitars and pounding drums. Dave sings in a high, soft voice about spinning in the car. Call me crazy, but I think the music sort of fits the lyrics. I say that because it gives the listener a feeling of floating, gliding, sliding around, being out of control. Sort of like the moment between losing control of the car and crashing, not being sure what's going to happen. As Dave sings in the chorus, "Oh my God, wait and see, what will soon become of me" (is that a question or a statement? Something to consider). Based on the music, which puts one in a good mood, this is a nice, soothing, happy song. I also like the sitar-guitar Dave uses in the background.

3) Gravedigger

This is the first single from "Some Devil," and it's a good one. The African-sounding percussion to start the track off sounds good and sets a mood. This is a very rock-based track, lots of guitars. Dave sings about the people he sees buried in the graveyard, and tells the gravedigger to dig his grave shallow "so that I can feel the rain." This is a very thought-provoking, moody, blues-y rock track and it's very powerful. I also notice that it's very chorus-oriented - Dave sings the chorus over and over through most of the song. That makes me think this song was probably made to be a single. Dave amps up the emotion through his singing as the song goes on, and thus brings out emotions in the listener. Also, the end of this track features some strings from the SeattleMusic Group. The strings just add to the atmosphere and push the track forward another notch. This track also has an acoustic version at the end of the album.

4) Some Devil

A very simple song, Dave sings about lost love and accompanies himself on electric guitar. Make that a soulful and harsh-sounding electric guitar. It gives an echo effect to the song, like Dave is singing alone in a big concert hall or maybe even a cave! Dave sings very sweetly and sadly on this slower, somber song. It's very eerie sounding but it's good. The sound of it, Dave's echoing guitar and his similarly echoing voice, gives the song a feeling of loneliness.

5) Trouble

Some have said this sounds like a U2 song, and it does. But with Dave's voice, of course. I love the floating, screaming guitars on this, and the driving drums by Brady Blade. Dave sings very well on here, a soft, sincere singing about his "trouble". To me, Dave's singing is the standout on this song. It's not too emotional, but has enough emotion to get his point across. It's also slightly religious/spiritual, especially with lyrics like "confess" and "pray your mercy shine". Just a good overall song.

6) Grey Blue Eyes

Another slightly spiritual song, it sounds like something you'd hear in the South or in some church somewhere. Anyway, it has a very unique, echo-y sound to it. Dave sings with a lot of conviction on this one, you can tell from his voice that he's got a lot of love for the one with the "grey blue eyes." It's a very soulful song. Trey Anastatio contributes a good distorted, vibrating electric guitar. If you listen close enough, maybe you'd even say it sort of matches Dave's vocal performance in some ways. Dave put a lot of emotion into this song, and it's quite different from any song he's ever done. Very soulful and powerful.

7) Save Me

This is a very blues-y track, with awesome guitars. A good rock song, with very gospel-y vocals from Dave as he sings his tale about two strangers meeting in the desert. The gospel sound is appropriate as the song is full of religious themes. A gospel choir even contributes background vocals near the end of the track. This is a very grooving, jazzy, rocking song that's easy to sing along to. It's also a good balance in between the upbeat vibe of "Dodo" and "So Damn Lucky" and the somberness of "Grey Blue Eyes" and "Gravedigger".

8) Stay or Leave

This is a GORGEOUS song, with very catchy, beautiful guitars and a gentle background of percussion and Dave's own mouth percussion too. This is a gentle acoustic guitar-oriented love song in the tradition of "Crash Into Me" and the like. The strings also add a power and lots of emotion to the track. I don't think Dave gets much better lyrically on the whole album than on here. "Stay or leave, I want you not to go but you should, it was good as good goes" "What day is this? Besides the day you left me" - good stuff!! It's a gentle song about lost love, with quite powerful lyrics that just add to the emotions presented in the music. One of the most beautiful songs on the whole album, in my opinion.

9) An' Another Thing

I'm not sure what the title of the song has to do with the song, but oh well. I don't think this song has any actual (or at least official) lyrics. I believe it's just Dave half singing/half moaning along. Like "Stay or Leave," this song features the gorgeous, plunking acoustic guitar and the beautiful string section that Dave so wisely used on the album. Dave sings this in falsetto, and really does a great job of putting emotions through the voice where the lyrics don't make the same impact. The fun of this song is to try and figure out what YOU think he's singing about. The tone of his voice, the way he uses it, conveys the information and tells the listener what to feel. Overall, I think this is just a plain beautiful song. It's very different from anything Dave's ever done, but I still like it. You can't help but feel the sounds tug at your heart. The voice, the guitar, the strings, it all just builds and digs into your heart and soul.

10) Oh

This is a very light, airy, acoustic guitar song with love song lyrics by Dave. It's very chill, laid back, very much like a DMB song. It gives you a positive, uplifting vibe. The lyrics by Dave basically say that love makes everything all right when nothing else is going well. A good, short, fun track.

11) Baby

This is a soft, gentle, ballad-type song. Again, guitars and strings are the emphasis. Dave does a great job on these slower, gentler love songs. It reminds me a lot of "Crash Into Me". There's not much else to say for this song other than it's very relaxing and romantic.

12) Up and Away

Another relaxing, romantic track, but this time with a reggae/Caribbean vibe. Dave's vocals again have that echo effect that gives the song a great atmosphere. His singing, as usual and as on the past few tracks on this album, convey a lot of sincere emotions of love and desire and care. The guitars here are also very emotional and emotive, especially Trey Anastatio's electric. What makes this song stand out, though, is the use of an organ. That gives the song a very jazzy, southern feel to it that I love. Overall, this is a very touching, lovely, but also groovy and jazzy song that you can relax to.

13) Too High

This is a much different song than the songs that come before it. Daves vocals are, again, very soft and gentle, but the guitars give the song an edge to it. This is just a rock song, not much of a love song but a good, smooth, driving rocker. I'd say the guitar playing is the highlight here with the slightly panicky and hard plucking. The end of the song brings in the horns and strings of SeattleMusicGroup, which gives the song an epic feeling, something very powerful. There's a darker side to this song that goes against what most of the latter half of the album brings. Like on "Dodo," the refrain makes the song work - "Slow hand quickens". Very memorable, for me at least.

14) Gravedigger (acoustic)

Still the same great song, but with a bit of a darker edge to it with the solo acoustic guitar by Dave and the addition of strings. The strings especially make the song a bit more sad and depressing than the electric version. The song loses a bit of power from the other version because of Dave's softer singing and the loss of the electric guitars, but it's a more reflective and eerie atmosphere. I like both versions, and I can't really find much to say about this song other than what I've already said. I'll end by saying that this is a very good acoustic version that gives a slightly different feeling to the listener than the full electric version.
Well, I love this album by Dave Matthews. The highlights for me include:

- The emotive guitar playing. You can definitely expect good guitar playing when you've got Dave, Tim Reynolds and Trey Anastatio around.

- The emotions that are expressed through the music and especially Dave's singing. Even if you ignore all the lyrics, just the way he sings should be enough to get the message across.

- The lyrics, on most of the songs anyway, are very deep and thought provoking. They tell stories, and they put ideas and pictures in your head.

- The diversity of sounds that Dave manages to find.

- The pure beauty of some of the songs. The way they stay with you and find their way into your heart.

My favorite songs: So Damn Lucky, Gravedigger (especially the acoustic version), Trouble, Save Me, Stay or Leave, Too High.

I'm very glad I purchased this album, and I find many things to enjoy about each song every time I listen to it. Bravo, Dave!

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