Ok, so maybe I don’t have a brother, and I can almost guarantee that the album I’ll be talking about this week wasn’t anyone’s first listen (who’s related to me, anyway). But I can tell you that this artist was probably my first love.
Dave Matthews Band was probably the first band I ever really listened to, and I’ve had a love for them ever since. For some reason, DMB is one of those bands that people love to hate. In fact, they made this list of the 15 most hated bands of the last 30 years. I couldn’t tell you why – I’ve been to three live shows and have every single album they’ve ever made (with the exception of Remember Two Things, but I’m getting there). Anyway, it seemed fitting that my first favorite band should be honored with my first post.
Album: Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King Artist: Dave Matthews Band
Back in 2009, the musical world lost a great musician. LeRoi Moore was one of DMBs founding members, and boy could he play a saxophone. And let’s be honest, he could probably play just about everything else too. Before Big Whiskey’s release, Moore passed away at age 46 due to complications from an off-road accident. In part, and in a large part at that, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King was a tribute to the actual GrooGux King: LeRoi Moore.
The album opens with Grux, a rich saxophone solo. Smooth, rolling, and just a hint of raunchy rasp. Fitting that the band should start the album with a sax, isn’t it? Overall, the album, like DMB’s earlier albums, rolls very contemplative and deep lyrics in with the same energy the band plays with on stage (click here to see DMB cover Runnin’ Down a Dream by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers).
The album isn’t just about LeRoi Moore’s death though; Matthews also alludes to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (which the city was still recovering from at this point) and the overall question “why do bad things happen to good people?” with lines like “Funny the way it is/not right or wrong/on a soldiers last breath his baby’s being born” and “Doesn’t everyone deserve to have the good life/but it don’t always work out.”
In fact, I’m never going to forget the first time I heard the album’s single Funny the Way It Is played live. Honestly, I kind of wanted to cry. It’s one of those songs that, once you’ve heard it live, you can never listen to the album ever again. Obviously I managed, but it was a deeply moving experience. Talk about major post-concert depression. But the album isn’t 100% doom and gloom – Why I Am shares a shred of hope with lines like “We’ll be drinking big whiskey while we dance and sing,” adding that “Heaven or Hell/I’m going down with the GrooGrux King.”
I chose this album as my first post because of what it means to me, and the overall message. I think what Matthews and the band are trying to share is that we need to make the most of a world where things don’t always work out the way they should. Big Whiskey is far from being my favorite DMB album, but it is certainly an honorable mention and it contains some of my favorite singles by the band. Even if you’re a DMB hater, you can’t deny that Dave Matthews can write a song.
As always, questions, suggestions, comments, and even snide remarks are welcome. Funny the Way It Is should be put up on the sidebar at some point in time, assuming I figure out how to work the internet. Keep listening!
Honorable song mentions: Funny the Way It Is, You & Me, Alligator Pie, and Grux/Shake Me Like a Monkey (lets be honest, I want to pick them all)