My first exposure to Dave Matthews came shortly after Under The Table And Dreaming was released. I'd heard an interview with him (I want to say that it was a Fresh Air/Terry Gross thing) and was intrigued. No, that's not the right word. My reaction to the idea of a band that featured bass, drums, acoustic guitar, violin, and saxophone…and no electric guitar? Skeptical. Then I heard "Ants Marching." It was one of those musical resonance moments in which all of my listening cells went into perfect alignment. I just had to have that album.
Like a lot of people, I bought the next two studio records ("Crash" and "Before These Crowded Streets") and then sort of lost track. He released a ton of live material that I never picked up. That's sort of weird for me because I'm a huge fan of live recordings. It probably has as much to do with my growing interest in oddball instrumental music than anything else. You can only buy so many records, you know?
The last studio album I bought was 2005's Stand Up. To be honest, I can't remember a single thing about it. Now that I say that, I'm not even sure that I own it. Maybe somebody loaned it to me? When I can't bring back details like that it's not a good sign. The music apparently had no resonance mojo. I don't know what was going on with him and the rest of the guys but the Dave Matthews Band circa '05 retained only faint glimmers of Under The Table And Dreaming.
I hadn't listened to them in quite a while when the news hit of the death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore. The DMB community is a tight one, and I just knew that the loss had to hit hard. Well, instead of quitting, they went on to complete the record they were working on at the time of Moore's passing. Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King celebrates the spirit of Moore with an explosion of passionate and joyous music. It'll sit proudly on the shelf next to Before These Crowded Streets. I'm not kidding.
I also didn't expect it. I'd pretty much given up on the band until seeing a documentary about the making of the album. What was almost as inspiring as the music was seeing the looks on the faces of the guys as they realized that they'd returned to the roots of their music-making. What GrooGrux brings back are winding melodies, nasty grooves, and (not that it ever went away) the crazy-great drumming of Carter Beauford. Go ahead and give "Why I Am" a listen. If that song doesn't bring a smile to your face then you just might be dead inside. My bet is that you will think "I just have to have that album!"