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DMB: Out of this 'World'

Dave Matthews Band returns to roots with inspired eighth album

It’s been more than 20 years since the Dave Matthews Band was formed right here in Charlottesville. As with any band whose work and influences span decades, the Southern rock band has had numerous lineup changes and has experimented with multiple musical genres. I fell in love with DMB in the ‘90s when they were just coming into their own, and I’m happy to report that Away from the World, the band’s latest record, hearkens back to the classic DMB that first grabbed my attention.

Between Matthews’ voice, the lyrics and amazing instrumentals, this album is a must-listen whether you are a die-hard fan or a hater of the legend that is DMB. The album is by no means perfect, but there are some songs that brought me back to the group’s ‘90s glory days.

Album opener “Broken Things” summons the intensity and slow-burning energy of the band’s first few records. It has the same great vocals we’ve come to expect from Matthews, but in contrast to the band’s past three albums, his voice doesn’t get muddled in superfluous instrumental lines. Jeff Coffin on the saxophone enhances the song rather than trying to steal the show, and Tim Reynolds rocks the guitar as usual. The track is upbeat, well-written and fresh despite recalling early DMB material. This song is definitely a go-to for a car ride with the windows down.

Unfortunately, DMB falters a bit with songs such as “Belly Belly Nice.” The title is irritatingly strange, and the track itself is just as odd. I have no desire to hear a nursery rhyme (“Jack and Jill” to be precise) talked out in the middle of a DMB song. Furthermore, as if the song weren’t bad enough, the backup vocals are cringe-worthy and unnecessary.

The album gets back to the good stuff with “Mercy,” “Sweet” and “The Riff.” “Mercy” is a struggling-for-love song , with Matthews gently asking, “Mercy, can we overcome this?” It’s soft, inspiring, and makes you want to cuddle by a fireplace with your significant other. Then we go on to “Sweet,” a beautiful song that is even better on live recordings because a jumpy instrumental background on the album version drowns out its soft, soothing vocals. It’s no secret DMB is always better live, a testament to the members’ incredible musical instincts. How many current artists can you say that about?

With “The Riff,” I encountered a song that easily rivals “Broken Things” as my favorite on this album. It starts soft and pure, perfect in its rawness and clarity. Then it picks up and makes me want to jump out of my seat and rock out. The harmony is perfectly placed and the drums come in at just the right moment, turning this song into the type of strong ballad for which DMB is famous.

Honestly, I could write about DMB for another 1,000 words, giving you the details of every song that rocked my socks off — including “Rooftop,” which reminded me why DMB is billed as a “rock” band. Instead, I implore you to listen and make your own judgments because the Dave Matthews Band deserves a second, third or even 10th look. They are truly too good to miss. You have to at least nod your head to legends who started in the best city in the world — you just have to.

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